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AIBC Healthcare Industry Chapter launch and webinar ‘’Shaping the future of Clinical Trials”

The Australia India Business Council (AIBC) launched its National Healthcare Industry Chapter on 11 December 2020 with the timely and well attended webinar entitled: Shaping the future of Clinical Trials. AIBC NSW Chapter Sponsor, NIB was event partner.

Mr Jim Varghese AM – AIBC National Chair said, “The aim of the seminar was to unlock the true potential in the clinical trial and research market, for both Australia and India.” He also said, “The trials and research opened broader economic opportunities in health economics, medical monitoring, and scientific leadership, to name a few, that would help pharmaceutical companies, medical technology companies and other related entities.

Mr Vish Viswanathan, AIBC Make in India Industry Chapter Chair and AIBC NSW Management Committee member, delivered the Welcome address on behalf of Sameer Arora, AIBC NSW President. He stated, “2020 had impacted all of humanity in many ways and it would be several years before normal life was restored. However, the light emerging at the end this dark COVID-19 tunnel was the clinical technological leadership being demonstrated globally to minimise and possibly eradicate the effects of this deadly disease…. Although clinical trials are one of the pharmaceutical industry’s most painful and costly processes, technology could shape the future of clinical development and fast track improvements for mankind. It is heartening to note that both Australia and India are demonstrating leadership in clinical technologies.”  He added “The webinar would cover interesting topics such as stem cell research, clinical trials in Australia and India, regulatory aspects, genomics, digital health and artificial intelligence (AI) in drug development.”

Ms Maria Non – NIB Business Development Manager, said “The government had announced Australia India partnership on COVID 19 research for six projects and announced $15 billion towards further research over four years. More information on this was available at the government website: .”  She said “NIB specialised in providing health insurance to Australian residents and temporary visitors like international students and workers. Some of the company’s recent initiatives included community support like a 24/7 hotline for members to access and get help through the pandemic. NIB also provided updated information on COVID 19 through its publication and tele-health. NIB also rolled out a range of financial hardship assistance support to members in recognition of the fact that COVID 19 was not only a health but economic impact. NIB also donated $1.5 million towards community efforts, hundreds of thousands of masks to various organisations and food hampers to international students and half a million dollars to lifeline which is an organization um looking after mental health, Particular attention and funds were directed towards mental health programs in universities for international students in Australia.”

Keynote Speaker was Dr Dinesh Palipanna OAM, University Hospital, Queensland – Senior Resident Doctor Gold Coast. Dr Dinesh Palipanna OAM is also the Queensland recipient of Australian of the Year, lawyer, disability advocate, co-founder of Disabilities Australia and researcher in spinal cord injury at Griffith University. He recounted his experiences as a survivor of a horrific, life-changing accident which resulted in spinal cord injury, leaving him a paraplegic. From then on, he extensively researched spinal cord injuries in Australia and globally for the best therapies for patients, who often felt, “disconnected and disempowered, and it can be a very heartbreaking thing, and some of the responses we got were very paternalistic.” He received $2.1 million funding towards a spinal cord research project, which included thought-controlled rehabilitation, electrical stimulation and drug therapy.  With borders closed due to the pandemic, work with experts is now done remotely, online. Other vital research being carried out includes virtual reality and thought control training. “So it’s been a fascinating year and the thing that I learned most is that when we get these challenges, we have to use them as opportunities to still try and get some work done, still try and be productive. I’ve realized that when there is a want, when there is a drive and when there’s a lot at stake we are able to get things done,” he said. “The history making, fast roll out of the COVID 19 vaccine worldwide was an example of what could be achieved with proper resources and researchers were able to achieve some really impressive outcomes, and this could also work in other areas of clinical research,” he added.

Dr Tanya Unni – AIBC Healthcare Industry Chapter Chair, introduced Associate Professor Jyotsna Batra Faculty of Health –  Queensland University of Technology.  Associate Professor Batra, a geneticist, revealed that “her major research focus in the last decade was concentrated on prostate cancer with the start of a molecular genetics group, studying DNA profiles of patients and healthy individuals, for changes which can predispose people to this disease and results have been successful. More clinical research was being done on genetic variations associated with the risk of prostate cancer, the results of which were being used by medical companies on consumer tests. As well, clinical research from other groups and forums and in collaborations with Indian and Australian partners were undertaken for other diseases like nanotechnology on ovarian cancer. It was important also to include Australia’s multicultural population as opposed to a Caucasian only population and results of collaborations with India, like Manipal hospital & University and in Delhi have been really fantastic,” she said.

Dr Nagaraj Gopisetty – Life Sciences Queensland – Deputy CEO,  said “the organisation represented industry members to attract investment, talent and knowledge. Members forged new frontiers in fields critical to human health, sustainable development and economic prosperity, spanning medical devices and diagnostics, medicines, agricultural and marine biotechnology, animal health and bio-energy. The basic purpose was influencing public policy within Queensland and nationally and supporting local industry forums, developing new business connections and India was a very important market.  The organisation was setting up a program of collaborations between, industry, academia and start-ups and connecting Queensland-based entrepreneurs through mentoring, training and introduction to capital sources and global markets. The program was funded by the Queensland Government. He said clinical trials in the State continued to be important despite the recent COVID-19 vaccine trial being unfortunately abandoned. This indicated the importance of addressing the safety and efficacy issues, whilst fast tracking to address a global challenge. This showed that the work undertaken followed very strict processes and regulatory obligations. Most particularly in Australia, which had over $4.9 billion worth of biomedical pharma industry that’s driving research & development through to manufacturing and clinical trials. The trials included oncology, neurology, infectious and respiratory diseases, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. As well, Australia was leading the way in teletrials in medical research, and had recently won a 75.2, million grant from the national medical research futures. He said Australia had a sophisticated medical research environment, skilled workforce, access to research and clinical experts across universities and hospitals, an excellent world class healthcare system, supported by Medicare and private health care systems. We’ve got fantastic public and private hospital systems and summing all that up together we have a very robust regulatory framework and a notification scheme for clinical trials. Hence it is very attractive for Indian and other overseas companies to conduct clinical trials in states like Queensland, as well as in other states like New South Wales and Victoria.

Jim Varghese AM said he had been very much involved in annual Indo-Australian biotechnology conferences which were the very key to collaboration between researchers and clinical clinician scientists of both nations, as well the opportunities available were amazing. It was a matter of making people aware what they were and where to source them. Austrade, TIQ in Bangalore and Sangeeta Krishnamurti were champions in this space and he suggested people get in touch with them to engage in further collaborations.

Dr Shivashankar Nagaraj -, Queensland University of Technology – Advance Queensland Research Fellow, has collaborated with India over many years, setting up new medicine, genomic and digital technologies with a number of institutes and created awareness programs. Thanks to Australia India Council grant, QUT academics were linked with industries from both countries and helped create jobs on both sides. They particularly helped students looking for PHD opportunities. “We have developed software that identifies blood groups from genomic data, essential for transfusion medicine and particularly with rare blood types and extremely difficult to find donors and we have an international collaboration on this, including India, in Mumbai at a national laboratory for transfusion medicine through our software, blood groups will be identified through genomics,” he added.

Another research innovation in rare genetic disorders in the reproductive system has led to a $20 million project based in Sydney and Victoria. As well, precision medicine in oncology is a great synergistic source of research between Australia and India, at the Tata Memorial Hospital Mumbai. He said, there was a $500 million dollar investment in researching rare disease and tackling complex cancers and a whole genome sequencing of patients, so genetics and genomics were integrated into the system. Another major area was data collection in Australia in the hospital system through Medicare for over 30 years. This data was important for clinical trials as well as understanding disease. It was also a great opportunity for start-up companies India.

Ms Amita Bhave – Novartis Healthcare – Head Regulatory Affairs GDD India, , highlighted the innovative use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in shaping the future of clinical trials. For example, under traditional methods it took 10 to 15 years and around US$2 billion for the successful development of a new drug, which was a lengthy process and had high failure rates. With the use of AI, this could take half the time and cost. As well, the real cost drivers in clinical trials were patient and site recruitment and patient retention data management. AI could be used in patient monitoring, overcoming limitations of current clinical trial processes. AI could automatically detect patterns of meaning in large databases, correlate diverse content, like the patient’s language and analyse diverse medical information from electronic medical records. Clinical trials could employ a variety of high-tech approaches to oversee the process and get good quality data. A major stumbling block in use of AI in countries like India, was lack of detailed documentation of patient’s medical history hence it was sometimes difficult to come up with AI solutions. Use of AI in patient monitoring during clinical trials could bring down drop out numbers. Instead of follow-up visits and strict protocols, wearable devices could be used by patients and thus lead to more reliable assessments.  Use of mobile real-time personal trial monitoring could assist in e-tracking missed clinic visits and also e-tracking of medication by using smart pill boxes and tools so investigators and researchers anywhere in the world could visually confirm treatment compliance.

Vish Viswanathan delivered the official vote of thanks.  He also thanked NIB for sponsoring the webinar.

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Jim Varghese AM – AIBC Ltd National Chair
E:  M: +61 474 739 479


Dr Tanya Unni – AIBC Healthcare Chapter Chair


Mr Sameer Arora – AIBC NSW State President