Queenslander Alan Robertson’s vision for an online genome browser that supports doctor-patient consultations has won him second place in the national finals of the Falling Walls Lab competition.
Through his start-up, ClearSKY Genomics, Mr Robertson is developing an online tool that breaks down the inherent complexity in genomes for deeper medical insights.
After being named in the top three Queensland finalists in the state-based stage of the competition, Mr Robertson won further acknowledgement at the recent national awards, coordinated by the Australian Academy of Sciences.
Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, ClearSKY Genomics has been able to maintain momentum with the help of a supportive Queensland innovation community.
“Specifically, we want to be able to help doctors find patterns and meaning in patients’ DNA,” said Mr Robertson.
“COVID-19 has made things challenging in a number of different ways, but we’re systematically overcoming each obstacle in our path and making progress. Despite all the disruption, we were able to complete our first clinical pilot in May and this is a massive achievement for anyone in this space.
“What we’re trying to do is unique and we’re very proud to be able to bring this concept to life in Queensland, where there’s so much support for innovation and start-ups.”
ClearSKY has benefited from support from Aginic Ventures, a Brisbane-based venture studio that got behind Mr Robertson ‘from day one’.
"We’ve also been supported by UQ’s entrepreneurship program - UQ Ventures, Life Science Queensland’s Catalyst program and the Australia-wide BridgeTech program,” said Mr Robertson.
“There are so many excellent programs to support innovation and entrepreneurship in Queensland. I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been able to tap into them to help bring our solution into reality.
“What this means, is that if you have a good idea, you can find the people and the support to help you get it in front of a global audience.”
Participating in Falling Walls has also exposed Mr Robertson’s ideas to broader circles of academia and investment.
Inspired by the change that followed the 1991 fall of the Berlin Wall, Falling Walls celebrates the latest innovations in science and humanities and how they influence environmental, political, medical and social justice solutions. Specifically, it asks the question: ‘Which are the next walls to fall?’
It’s the second year that Study Queensland has participated in the event, with University of Queensland’s Rhys Pirie taking out the global Young Innovator of the Year award at the 2019 event.
Study Queensland, part of Trade and Investment Queensland, is tasked with delivering the Queensland Government’s International Education and Training Strategy to Advance Queensland 2016-26.