About the Program

SPARK Melbourne is a 12-month translational research program focussed on advancing medical technologies (MedTech) and Therapeutics into new treatments for patients.

The goal of SPARK Melbourne is to upskill and educate researchers in the early stage commercialization pathway providing promising projects with the milestone-based funding and mentoring required to meet early developmental stage milestones. 

Project teams also receive training in IP strategy, regulatory affairs, pitching skills, market analysis, as well as other valuable skills to aid in their translational journey


Who Can Apply?

Finalists of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (MDHS) Dean’s Innovation Grant’s scheme have been invited to participate in the inaugural SPARK Melbourne program.

How are teams selected?

Teams and projects that can feasibly achieve industry relevant milestones over 12 months are mentored and funded. Teams are selected based on a pitch of their projects to an expert panel.


The team


Prof Darren Kelly

Director of SPARK Melbourne

Darren is the Associate Dean (Innovation and Enterprise, MDHS) at The University of Melbourne, the Director of Innovation and Enterprise at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) and Director of Biomedical Research in the Department of Medicine, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, where his research expertise lies in progressing pre-clinical novel interventions and developing experimental models of cardiovascular disease. Concurrent to his role with The University of Melbourne, Darren is the CEO and Managing Director of Certa Therapeutics and Occurx, Australia, bringing over 25 years of management and research expertise in the life sciences and biotech sector. He has published over 200 manuscripts in the field of translational research and novel interventions many of which have had a direct impact on human disease. In 2015 Darren joined the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund as Venture Partner.  Darren has proven history in translational research. He was previously Founder, CEO and Director of Fibrotech Therapeutics, a company that developed orally active anti-fibrotic inhibitors to treat underlying pathological fibrosis in kidney and heart failure, which was ultimately acquired by Shire Plc for a record 75 million USD upfront including milestone payments up to 600 million USD.  Darren has a PhD in Translational Medicine from the University of Melbourne. 

Lauren Ayton

Dr Lauren Ayton

Co-Director of SPARK Melbourne

Lauren is a Senior Research Fellow and clinician-scientist with appointments in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences and Department of Surgery (Ophthalmology) at the University of Melbourne. Her research expertise is in retinal disease, low vision and vision restoration. In particular, Lauren has led clinical programs of a number of vision prosthesis (bionic eye) implants. She was the Clinical Team Leader of the Bionic Vision Australia consortium between 2010 and 2017, and remains a Chief Investigator on that project. She is a Chief Investigator on the Monash Vision Group cortical implant program. In 2017, Dr Ayton accepted a position in industry as the Director of Clinical and Regulatory Affairs for Bionic Eye Technologies, a USA startup company affiliated with Harvard and Cornell Universities. This position provided experience in FDA regulatory processes, business strategic planning and investor relations. Her expertise in medical devices spans research to commercialisation, and she is passionate about innovation in the University sector. Dr Ayton returned to Melbourne in 2019 to lead her own research team investigating vision restoration and rehabilitation. In addition to her research, Dr Ayton is a regular science commentator, including 3RRR radio, ABC radio and other media forms.

Professor Wallach has over 30 years of experience in molecular parasitology with a wealth of experience in both academic and industrial science. In 2008, Michael established a new course in Bio-Innovation and Entrepreneurship where graduates work in small teams to form creative innovative ideas for medical health products. This course has been given locally and internationally culminating in 2016 with a course given at the Stanford University School of Medicine. In 2013, he was appointed as the inaugural director of the SPARK Sydney program, which was established by UTS and the University of Sydney, to emulate the Stanford SPARK program. Furthermore, Michael played a key role in building SPARK Global, which is expected to be formally established, with the participation of 10 countries, in 2017.


Prof Michael Wallach

Co-Director of SPARK Oceania, Sydney branch. Facilitator at SPARK Melbourne and Monash


Dr Premila Paiva

SPARK Melbourne Program Manager

Dr. Premila Paiva is a Senior Project Officer within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (MDHS) and is responsible for delivering strategic initiatives that build an entrepreneurial workforce and culture and increase the societal and economic impact of research within MDHS.

Premila is responsible for overseeing the implementation of Accelerating Australia supported programs such as SPARK at the University of Melbourne.

Georgia von Guttner is the Director of Innovation & Enterprise for the University of Melbourne and the Director of Health Workforce Development for the University’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences. Georgia directed the collaboration between the University of Melbourne and Monash University to jointly develop a vehicle for biomedical science translation and drug discovery, now established as the JV, BioCurate Pty Ltd, in which she remains closely involved. Georgia helped found the Centre for Workplace Culture Change, RMIT, has held international management team roles in dot.com start-ups Clarion International and Storm Telecommunications, was on the national executive of the Federation of Rural Medical Educators, and was the founding Executive Director of the University of Melbourne Shepparton Medical Centre. An experienced board director, Georgia holds a Bachelor of Economics, Monash University, a Master of Arts (Personnel and Development), Westminster Business School, University of Westminster, and has post-graduate leadership training from the Saiid Business School, University of Oxford. Georgia is a graduate member of the Australian Company of Directors.

GvG Warsaw 2

Georgia Von Guttner

Director, Innovation & Enterprise at UoM


Prof Danny Hoyer

Daniel Hoyer got his PhD and DSc in Pharmacology from Universite Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg. Following a post doc at University of Pennsylvania Med School, Hoyer joined Sandoz in Basel. > 25 years of drug discovery / development experience in Pharma and Academia. Sandoz: 1983-1997; Novartis: 1997–2012. Scripps: 2004-present. Management of pharmacology research groups, drug discovery programs, translational biology. Responsibility for extensive cross disciplinary internal & external collaborations. Leadership of learned societies (5HT Club, Neuropeptide club); numerous editorial and academic activities. 1998: Novartis Leading Scientist. 2002: Highly Cited Researcher, ISI, Pharmacology. 2003: Manfred Zimmermann Award. 2003: Top Ten in Pharmacology, ISI, http://www.in-cites.com/scientists/pha-10-aug2003.html. 2004: Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society. Since Dec 2012, Hoyer is Professor, Chair and Head, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Deputy Head, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Australia and Honorary Professorial Fellow, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

The 2019 Cohort


Sponsors are a necessary component of the SPARK Melbourne program. They may also provide guest/specialist lectures or services to further develop strong relationships between the hosts and industry. SPARK UoM is strongly supported by:

Get in Contact

If you have any questions about the SPARK UoM course or are interested in providing your expertise to our teams as an industry mentor, we would love to hear from you!