Dr Louise Brown, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences, is proud as punch: one of her PhD students, Ishan, together with colleagues in physics, are in the process of commercialising their research. After more than 18 months of shaping the idea and spurred on by recent success in the CSIRO-run ‘On Prime’ start-up accelerator, the possibilities look very promising indeed. We caught up with Louise to find out more about the project – and what she has learnt from the experience.
“I’ve learnt a lot from Ishan and his drive. I’m a very science-oriented person, and I rarely think of the application beyond the lab. It’s taken Ishan’s drive for me to become interested in the idea of commercialisation and the potential it holds. It’s also made me realise that there’s a lot of missed opportunities that I wish I had harnessed in the past. We’re taking a lot of the products that Ishan has developed and studied during his PhD and pitching them to the market.”
The products Ishan refined during his PhD are ‘ultra-small’ diamonds. It is hard to capture how small they are, but they are roughly the width of one-thousandth of a human hair. These already exist in research labs and are even available for sale by some small companies, but Ishan’s research has demonstrated ways to make them smaller and better than any other currently available. It’s a very unique material.
“The true beauty in this project has been the significant element of collaboration; we’ve worked with so many teams around the university. We’re chemists, but we’ve had to work very closely with both physicists and biologists in order to really understand the full extent of the applications for these products. Over the last year, we formed a company called LuciGem together with three physicists who also work at Macquarie,” said Louise.
“It’s been a very different way of working for me, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. The strength in this is that because we know exactly what the product is, we can start applying it to many different things and fields beyond our areas of expertise. There are already universities both in Australia and overseas using our products which is great.
“Some students have more of a ‘commercial’ edge than others and it’s a great way to keep them involved in research while developing commercial skills along the way. Funding this is more difficult and higher risk, but the fast pace and new way of thinking makes it all worthwhile, especially as a training ground for dynamic students who’ve just completed postgraduate studies. It’s been so great having Ishan stay on beyond his PhD to pursue this. I’m very proud of him.” Dr Brown concluded.
IMAGE: The LuciGem team: Carlo Bradac, Louise Brown, James Rabeau, Varun Sreenivasan and Ishan Rastogi (left to right) in the Macquarie University Pop-Up Incubator.