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The serious challenge of medical research

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Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.

Albert Einstein

Two emails that landed on my computer screen recently gave clues to the amazing pace and reach of medical research. Both advertised conferences: one planned for Boston in July, and the other in San Diego in March this year.

The Boston meeting, entitled the Organ-on-a-Chip World Congress, is rather breathlessly described as concerning “assemblies of cell clusters using microfluidics that mimic in vivo organ structure”. Technology options to be reviewed at the congress resemble a fast-food menu — Lung-on-a-Chip, Brain-on-a-Chip and Gut-on-a-Chip.

The San Diego conference, Biomarker Summit 2015, will consider “all aspects of the biomarker and diagnostic development process from discovery to translation to commercialization”, with topics covering “big data analytics and management, regulatory and reimbursement trends, companion diagnostics development, and much more”.

In contemplating the future of medical research in Australia, the international context, typified by what lies behind these two meetings, is critical. Two…