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image: CBE

image: CBE

Why should a scientist study business?

9 October 2019

5 minutes read

Until August this year, it had been 25 years since Associate Professor Anneke Blackburn last submitted an assignment to be marked.

“At first it was a bit stressful being on the other side of the fence - having to meet an assignment deadline rather than set one. Now it’s fun, especially as the feedback will come much sooner than a typical grant application or the publication of a study. More importantly, it is not just a pass or fail result,” she explained.

Anneke, a research scientist at The Australian National University (ANU), was referring to her latest research on dichloroacetate (DCA), an anti-cancer drug. Anneke wants to make sure her cancer treatment has every chance of making it to patients.

CBE has academics with a strong track record in social enterprises, and I am already fostering connections

“But since DCA doesn’t have any patent protection, it implies a lack of investment interest for clinical trials. If no one was going to back it, then I was going to give it a try. That’s why I’m learning about business and management, it will help me set up a non-government organisation (NGO). Based on the principals of Open Source Pharma, my NGO would facilitate cancer research in Australia,” Anneke explained.  

Open Source Pharma (OSP) is an international community that has an ardent vision of ‘Medicine for All’. Nevertheless, OSP, so far, has not taken a drug to market.

“My ambitious idea is to use DCA to set the precedent for OSP. My current goal is to examine alternative business models for drug development that do not involve high returns to shareholders. Rather, it involves high returns for its patients, where we don’t require patents to get a drug to market,” Anneke shared.

It was this motivation and the research focused reputation of the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE) that allured Anneke to go back to class and assignments.

“CBE has academics with a strong track record in social enterprises, and I am already fostering connections towards research in the development of drugs without patents,” said Anneke, who is pursuing a Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She is also the recipient of the ANU College of Business and Economics Postgraduate Merit Scholarship.

The CBE scholarship means that I can afford to take the financial risk of a career change

Unsure about returning to study, particularly from a financial standpoint, Anneke found her husband’s confidence reassuring and was delighted to be awarded a scholarship from CBE.

“The scholarship means that I can afford to take the financial risk of a career change; to get outside the box and explore business and management opportunities. As my ambition comes with significant risk of not being successful, risk reduction on any front is encouraging,” Anneke shared.

With three children aged 11, 13 and 16, Anneke’s immediate impression of her coursework is that it is minimally disruptive to her family routine.

“I was attracted to my degree at CBE because it allowed me to attend classes in person and have face-to-face interactions with other students. Having that in the routine would guarantee I spent at least a few hours each week towards studying. Otherwise with a busy family life, it would have been easy to put it off and let other things take priority,” Anneke confessed.

Studying at the University's Research School of Management, which focuses on evidence based approaches, Anneke was quick to learn the value of research in the context of management education.

“Once I realised this, it made the transition from science to management studies much easier, since doing research has been my bread and butter for the last 25 years. I’m getting the hang of it and eager to see how I go in the first assignments,” Anneke said.

The assignment in question was for her course Technology and Project Management. She got an HD.


The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs in business and management. Click here for more details.

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Updated:   6 November 2019 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team