Women in Science
Building spin-off companies and collaborating with industry
Interview excerpt: Kylie says that she previously had purely academic research interests, but it has been exciting and enjoyable working with technology transfer to industry.
Yes and actually one of those side projects has turned out to be really exciting because it's led us into an application of enzymes in industrial biotechnology for using enzymes to make expensive chemicals. And it started out as a sort of, “Let's see whether this can, can work and see if, you know, see we can try something else, just dabble round see if it works.' And it worked beautifully in the end and so we have a way of using hydrogen gas to drive the synthesis of very complicated chemicals and that sort of went from being just a demonstration on the side, on the side project that one of my master students was working on to suddenly actually being something that we then got a very major grant application funded to take that forward towards market. And we're now working towards commercialising that as quite exciting technology for pharmaceutical companies and fine chemicals companies to use in helping with enzyme catalyst synthesis of fine chemicals.
So that's turned out to be a really exciting thing and I was a bit, sort of when we did start this applied project I was a bit sceptical about starting something that seemed so applied if it was something that was really designed to translate a technology towards market and while I'd like to see this technology going to market I was also thinking is this going to end up as really boring research that I'm not excited about anymore. But actually along the way we found all sorts of other exciting angles on it that's continued to spin, sort of spin out into new research interests in the group and a lot of mini projects along the way that have real academic interest as well as the more applied angles on that.
Yes, we are getting reasonably close to we think we're getting reasonably close to commercialising this industrial biocatalysis technology. We've been working closely with Oxford University Innovation, the University's tech transfer office for quite a few years now and have, about to file our second, second patent application relating to this technology. With probably more protectable IP coming out all the time and we've got quite a lot of Industry links where companies are quite excited about this technology. So we're starting to be able to crystallise out a sort of route to market for this.
It's been pretty exciting to see the interest we're getting from Industry and that's quite a new experience I suppose to come from doing very fundamental research to suddenly actually having something that companies are getting excited about and we've now got a number of Industry linked student projects. So three of the students in my group are sort of on Industry funded, Industry linked projects and that has continues actually to, it's really helpful to have those Industry linked projects because it shows us, it helps us direct, it helps us work out direction the research should go in to keep it being industrially relevant in those projects. But also we get asked some really difficult questions from the Industrial partners that make us go back to the lab and scratch our heads and think again about how we can solve problems. So I think it's been a really interesting interplay then between going back to our more fundamental science and trying to sort of answer some of these questions that then help us to develop the more applied research as well.
So I, yeah, I really hope this technology does make it to market because we're very excited to sort of see it out there.