Past student paves the way in Australian scientific research and development
In celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February 2017, we spoke with past student Dr Alison Todd (1974), founder of global molecular diagnostics company, SpeeDx Pty Ltd, about her successful career in scientific research and development.
Dr Alison Todd has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry and is an inventor on eighteen patents/patent applications.
She has developed several novel molecular analytical technologies which have been used for basic research, preclinical/clinical drug development and in-vitro diagnostics.
Her techniques have been used for molecular monitoring in nine international clinical trials for patients with HIV, leukaemia and various solid tumours.
Dr Todd was awarded the highly prestigious Johnson & Johnson Philip B. Hofmann Research Scientist Award in 1997 for her outstanding achievements in the field of research and development.
In 2009, Alison Dr Todd founded SpeeDx Pty Ltd, a privately owned company specialising in innovative multiplex real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) solutions for clinical diagnostics.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement so far?
Alison Todd: My greatest achievement so far is founding and building SpeeDx Pty Ltd. Together with my past PhD student, Elisa Mokany I set up SpeeDx after Johnson & Johnson Research Pty Limited (J&J) — where I had been working as a Senior Research Director — closed their Australian research operations during the global financial crisis in 2008. I was keen to ensure that my work at J&J would not go to waste, but would form the basis of medical products as I envisioned it could.
SpeeDx was established with the backing of Australian venture capital. We successfully persuaded J&J to assign patents covering inventions that were originally conceived at J&J across to SpeeDx. Initially we survived by licensing our technology to other companies and assisting them to bring medical diagnostic products to market.
These days SpeeDx does everything from inventing technology, developing tests for medical diagnostics, validating tests in clinical studies, obtaining regulatory approval and finally marketing and selling SpeeDx-branded tests throughout Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
This year we aim to enter the US market. We have grown from an initial four employees to over thirty and recently opened a second office in London.
What did you enjoy most about science at Girls Grammar?
AT: I had a great science teacher, Mrs Gallegan, who made the classes interesting and encouraged me even though I was a poor student at the time. I wouldn’t say I had a light-bulb moment that steered me toward science as a career but it was the one subject that came naturally and easily to me. I particularly enjoyed studying biology.
What advice would you give to current Grammar Girls considering a career in science?
AT: Science can be a great career. It is always interesting but is not necessarily the best paid profession. Nonetheless it provides opportunities for constant learning, international travel and intellectual freedom.