Updated on 5 December 2012
From her time as a postgraduate research student and then as an early career postdoctoral biomedical researcher, Professor Smith was influenced 'at the subconscious level' by senior researchers and mentors in the Departments of Medicine and Anaesthesiology on the Herston campus of UQ. These researchers were distinguished in the way that they collaborated closely with the industry in an ethical manner on clinically relevant research projects that aimed at improving patient outcomes.
Shift from academia to industry
Talking about the importance of academia-industry collaboration, Professor Smith said, "From the onset of my career, I absorbed by osmosis, that clinical outcomes were paramount and that the best way to achieve such outcomes is by effective collaboration between academic life sciences researchers and industry. Hence, once I commenced my independent academic research career as a lecturer in the UQ School of Pharmacy in the early 1990's, I instinctively knew that for the discoveries to be successfully translated to the clinic, it would be important to collaborate with industry."
Since the latter half of the 1990's, she has collaborated with the industry, initially as a means of commercializing her own intellectual property (IP) and undertaking a few R&D contracts, and then in an accelerated and expanded manner over the last seven years as her role as executive director and co-founder of the Center for Integrated Preclinical Drug Development (CIPDD) at UQ. CIPDD was established as a university level center at UQ in May 2005 with $8.1 million in investment funds from the Smart State Research Facillities Fund (SSRFF) to purchase leading edge infrastructure, as well as significant seed capital from UQ. CIPDD is a joint venture of the Faculties of Science and Health Sciences involving four schools (pharmacy, medicine, chemistry and molecular sciences, and biomedical sciences) and a collaboration between its four founders , including Professors Maree Smith, Ron Dickinson, Istvan Toth and Rod Minchin.
In the last seven years, the team at CIPDD has undertaken more than 500 contract R&D projects in collaboration with more than 200 industry and academic clients in the biopharmaceutical sector in Australia and abroad. All studies are conducted in a facility with internationally recognized quality credentials, viz GLP recognition and ISO17025 accreditation from the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA). "The concept of my Centre and its evolution into the outstanding facility that it is, has been a logical progression," mentions Professor Smith.
She believes that she has made the transition from academic researcher to her present role where she is working in close collaboration with industry, with relative ease. "This is because I really enjoy working at the interface of science and business." Professor Smith finds it very satisfying in the professional sense to be able to assist researchers from industry and academia to progress their life sciences inventions from the discovery laboratory through the various nonclinical translational research steps towards commercialization, as well as to undertake research aimed at bringing innovation into the methods used for R&D studies.