Eight years studying physiotherapy and over ten in neuroscience, a master’s degree, a PhD and two post docs. Why the shift to study the University of Melbourne’s Master of Entrepreneurship at Wade Institute?

Applying the entrepreneurial toolkit to research commercialisation

Back in Brazil, Willian studied his bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy and his masters in neuroscience. Moving to Australia to do his PhD, Willian is now completing a second post-doctoral position as research officer at the Florey Institute and is transitioning from an early-career to mid-career researcher in neuroscience. After all this study of the human body, Willian was craving something new.

“I reached this point where I thought: ‘Okay, I can discover a lot of things and generate knowledge, but how can I have a larger impact, and bring that knowledge to directly help people?’ And that is what brought me to entrepreneurship”, he said.

Willian saw potential in the convergence between medical research and entrepreneurship, but recognised that the intersection of these industries is not always seen as an opportunity for creating positive societal change.

“The idea of commercialising has a bit of a bad connotation because people think you just want to make money – but it’s not true. The only way to bring a treatment to the market and then to a patient is through a process called ‘translation and commercialisation’, and that is actually exactly the entrepreneurial path: how can you take all of the information and then create something tangible that can benefit humanity? That is the holy grail.”

Breaking convention to make the leap to entrepreneurship

Willian says he saw a unique opportunity in studying entrepreneurship at  Wade Institute during his interview for the University of Melbourne’s Master of Entrepreneurship.

“Georgia [General Manager, Wade Institute] showed me that Wade is trying to create this very powerful network, which has this ethos of helping each other and empowering the Melbourne ecosystem. I think that is amazing, they have really helped me to develop my skills and create new opportunities. In the same way, I enjoy helping my colleagues – you know, introducing them to my own network – and each time when we have a new cohort we are growing this effect. I think this massive collaborative culture is going to be the future.”

Willian began in 2018, with Florey allowing him the flexibility to continue his research work while studying entrepreneurship at Wade part-time. He also does freelance market analysis of competitive landscapes for research commercialisation projects; and is supported by the STEMM scholarship.

For Willian, his entrepreneurial training is complementary to his work in medical science, even if it’s a little outside of the conventional career path of a researcher.

“I think Australia has this culture of being risk averse when it comes to new ventures in medical research, but people are changing. It is good, but it is just the tip of the iceberg and we are still in the early days… I am more risk-taking than risk-averse, and that’s why I chose entrepreneurship instead of just the traditional academic path such as research or teaching.”

Helping people is personal

Willian is a third-generation Japanese descendant, and says his family senses he is on a path for growth in his pursuit of entrepreneurship. “I am lucky that my family has always been very supportive, they believe in freedom of thinking and speaking, and in happiness by helping others… They still don’t understand what I do most of the time though, but I try to explain and looking back it has been great fun.”

With his constant desire to help people, Willian believes this first and ultimate goal is what acts as a driving force for himself and fellow entrepreneurs at Wade.

“At the end of the day, we are not doing this because we want a unicorn or millions of dollars. We are doing this because we want to do something meaningful. To be able to do that, it’s special.”