Last year’s #HWALAB winners lead the way in the fight against cancer

Health science has come a long way, but there’s always room to improve the technology used. That’s the challenge tackled every day by science tech company RHS. Ltd, according to Dr. Michelle Fraser (CEO and Managing Director) and Dr. Melinda Jasper (Chief Scientific Officer).

“We’re a company that makes products for testing single cells, and whether they’ve got the right amount of DNA in them,” says Michelle. “So [we can tell] whether they’ve got a genetic fault that causes disease.”

Designing products to make scientists’ lives easier seemed like a natural step for both Melinda and Michelle. Both have been involved in the field for years, initially as research scientists themselves. RHS itself was borne out of The University of Adelaide’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology over a decade ago, where the tests being developed initially focused on screening pregnancies for Down syndrome, before moving to the testing of cells in developing embryos prior to an IVF cycle.

One of their ideas centred on software that analyses genetic data to the point you can zoom in on a single base change linked to disease. It won them first place and a share in $85,000 of SA Government grants at last year’s HWA Lab; an experience both speak highly of.

“I think it’s always good to get in front of an audience of people that don’t have the scientific background in your products, or the market space that you work in, and do a cold pitch to them. It makes sure that the message of who you are and what you do is relevant to everyone,” says Michelle. “It was good to receive the mentoring over the couple of days in the lead-up to the pitch, too, just to hone the messaging that comes out in that final 10 minute presentation.”

“I think it’s always good to get in front of an audience of people that don’t have the scientific background in your products, or the market space that you work in, and do a cold pitch to them.”

“It’s also really interesting to think about how the technology has applications outside of the immediate project that you’re working on,” Melinda adds.

RHS is launching its third product this year, and is using the grant to develop a modified version of the software for the IVF market and other applications, like prenatal or cancer diagnosis. “If we’ve got software that can underpin all of that, it opens up a whole platform of genetic tests that can be done on different cells. Not even just human cells – we can extend it beyond that,” says Michelle.

Developing the software is a difficult task, but the prospect of discovering something new is one that drives the team at RHS.

“Being in the laboratory, you’re often the first person to find something new out,” Melinda says.

“…it’s really exciting to think if your results answer a really important question or solve a problem, you’re the only person [in the world] who knows the answer. It’s rewarding and really inspiring.”

This year’s #HybridWorldADL will take place in late July in the city of Adelaide. For more details on the #HWALAB, and how to apply, click here.