Van Mai was inspired by a lecture to do an industry placement internship that led to her work being incorporated into presentations to customers by a successful Brisbane biotech company.

“Two scientists from Anteo Diagnostics gave a guest lecture in the second year Issues in Biotechnology course I was taking,” she said.  “I found it very interesting and thought provoking.”

Course coordinator, Assoc Prof Vito Ferro, mentioned to students that an eight-week internship at Anteo was available for a student taking the course Biotechnology Industry Placement over the summer semester.  Van applied and was chosen.

After two weeks of on-site training about company policy, equipment use, experiment design and record-keeping, Van felt well-equipped to undertake six weeks in the company laboratory.

“I worked with one of Anteo’s signature products, Mix&Go, a high performance substance for surface coating,” said Van.

“The product enables fragile biomolecules to correctly orientate and attach to a wide range of surfaces.

“Specifically, I worked on optimising protocols for plate-based enzyme linked immunosorbent assays.”

Shaun Cooper of Anteo Diagnostics supervised Van’s project and said that Van was asked to use the underlying theory of Anteo’s novel ligand-metal coordination chemistry to determine its utility in improving sensitivity of an immunoassay in a format were low surface area traditionally limits performance.

“Van identified the performance differences of the product in high and low surface area plate formats,” he said.

“Her data demonstrated that sensitivity differences can be observed with the application of Mix&Go and that improvements are greater in the lower surface area format.

“Some of her data was incorporated into technology overview presentations given by the company’s chief scientific officer to prospective customers and partners.”

Van said that the work environment at Anteo was warm and welcoming and that the experience had taught her about the business side of scientific research, including policy, protocols and the importance of discussion and collaboration.

“It has also built my confidence,” she said.

Van is an international student who won a scholarship from the Vietnamese government to study the Bachelor of Biotechnology in Australia.  She was awarded Dean’s Commendations for high achievement in her undergraduate studies, worked as a peer tutor and charity volunteer, and is now completing her Honours year in materials chemistry.

She praised the quality of UQ’s teaching and learning, the range of courses, lab facilities and the beautiful St Lucia campus.

Anteo Diagnostics has hosted a number of UQ biotechnology students and is keen to host more.

“Students who undertake internships like Van’s gain not only general workplace skills, but also some insight into how Australian research contributes to commercial product realisation,” said Mr Cooper.

“Support for translational research is currently a topic of government policy debate, and projects like Van’s are a good example of the interface between research and commercialisation.”

Images:  Above right - Van Mai;  At left - Shaun Cooper.

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