Damien Gulliver, IMNIS mentee in the 2017 MedTech-Pharma program in NSW (USyd)

“The IMNIS program provides an unparalleled opportunity to develop an industry-facing skill set in Australia.”

My name is Damien, and I am a pharmacologist focused on developing efficacious therapeutics for hard to treat diseases. My current PhD project at the University of Sydney involves the preclinical development of new drugs that could overcome social anxiety by mimicking oxytocin, a hormone which regulates human relationships, empathy and bonding. Thus far, my work has led to multiple first-author publications, a patent, and the formation of a spin-off company (Kinoxis Therapeutics) to progress these novel drugs to the clinic.

Recently, I also joined the team at Scientia Clinical Research; a new Australian centre for clinical trials. This opportunity has provided me with an insight into the logistical and regulatory landscape that must be traversed to bring a new drug to market, giving me a view of drug development that prioritises translational research with ‘real-world’ feasibility.

In 2017, I participated in the IMNIS MedTech/Pharma program and was paired with a like-minded mentor, with whom I enjoy an ongoing and fruitful professional relationship.

Why did you participate in the IMNIS program?

I recognised that the academic environment in which I was working only reflected the earliest stages of drug development, and I lacked an understanding of the priorities and processes involved in the later phases before a drug is delivered to the clinic. I did know, however, that industry partnerships play a critical role at this point in the timeline, and so I saw the IMNIS program as an opportunity to cultivate the professional attributes that would allow me to understand and engage more broadly with key stakeholders from outside of my field.

How often did you meet with your mentor and did you prepare for these meetings? What was the best piece of advice you received? What was the most important aspect of this professional relationship for you?

I met with my mentor in person every couple of months, and was in email and phone contact often. My mentor was approachable, insightful and easy-going, which I valued highly. I gained valuable knowledge about the medtech/pharma sector in Australia, and was afforded many opportunities to network with prominent business-people and scientists

Would you recommend participating in the IMNIS program to your peers?

Absolutely, especially to my fellow PhD students in academia. The IMNIS program provides an unparalleled opportunity to develop an industry-facing skill set in Australia.

What was the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you?

For me, the most rewarding experience in the program was the straightforward relationship with my mentor, which allowed me to contact him and arrange meetings easily despite the time constraints imposed by his, and my own workload.

Did IMNIS help you get to where you are now?

Yes, through IMNIS I feel confident in my ability to foster new collaborations and industry partnerships in connection with my PhD project, and add value in industry-research positions that I will seek after my candidature.