A father-son team has been awarded the 2014 BioSA Technology Achievement Award in recognition of their contributions to reproductive health in Australia and the world.
Professor Colin Matthews AO and Mr Johnathon Matthew received the prize from South Australia’s Science and Information Economy Minister Gail Gago at a welcome reception for the Technology Transfer Summit, being held in Adelaide 2 - 3 September 2014.
“I’m very chuffed about it,” said Professor Matthews. “It’s an award outside my immediate academic career.”
“What I’m most proud of is having been part of a world-leading reproductive health unit at the University of Adelaide that brought fertility success to couples where possible, but also not forgetting those that we were not able to help.”
Across a stellar career that began in the early 1970s in Adelaide, Professor Matthews assisted in setting up the legal framework for reproductive technology in South Australia and pioneered work on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis for in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
He founded The Pipette Company Pty Ltd, an Adelaide-based specialist manufacture and supplier of high quality devices for human IVF procedures, and where Jonathon is now Business Manager and Executive Director.
“We export to around 50 countries, and supply pipettes for IVF and related technologies covering 12-15% of the world market,” explained Professor Matthews. “Our number 1 customer for pipettes is China.”
“Each year now there are 1.7-1.8 million cycles of IVF performed across the world,” he said. “In total, around 6 million babies have been born as a result of IVF.”
Professor Matthews is a Director of Reproductive Health Science Pty Ltd, an Adelaide company that recently listed on the ASX. The company manufactures a kit for embryo pre-implantation genetic diagnosis based on technology he developed with colleagues during the 1990s.
The kit is used to safely test an embryo for the correct number of chromosomes before it is selected to start a pregnancy.
“This is a technology we believe is making a real difference to IVF,” said Professor Matthews.
“It’s improving results particularly for older patients, as it allows you as to only put top quality embryos back in.”
The approach also offers value in markets such as the USA, where multiple embryos of unknown health are transferred to women to increase pregnancy success rates. Multiple transfers in America are common as each IVF cycle can be very expensive for the couple. However multiple pregnancies bring increased risks to mothers and babies, and carry high public healthcare costs.
“Half of all IVF babies in America come from multiple pregnancies,” said Professor Matthews. “This approach is a fantastic way of reducing this figure, and achieving pregnancies with a single embryo.”
Professor Matthews is also a Director of Flinders Fertility, and was previously a founding member of Repromed Pty Ltd, a university owned, Adelaide based IVF clinic. Until he retired in 1998, he was in charge of the University of Adelaide’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital's Reproductive Medicine Unit. He was awarded the Order of Australia medal in 2013 as recognition of his services to reproductive medicine.
“Professor Matthews contribution to reproductive technology is respected throughout the world,” said Minister Gago.
“Both Professor Matthews and Mr Matthews have been integral to founding and directing commercial companies to bring this technology to those who need it.”
For more on Reproductive Health Science, see here.