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Love of science delivers UniSQ Alum place on COVID prep world stage

University of Southern Queensland Alum is doing his part to help battle the pandemic.

He’s the kid from a regional town that never had a career plan, but knew he simply loved science.

Now, 20 years after graduating high school in Toowoomba and enrolling in a science degree at the University of Southern Queensland, Dr Scott Fry is at the forefront of pandemic preparedness as the Chief Operating Officer of Brisbane-based research and development organisation, Ellume.

“I chose to study science because biology was a real strength for me during school, so it seemed like a natural progression to continue studying something I knew I was good at,” Dr Fry said.

“My grades during my undergraduate studies were good and that meant I had the opportunity to complete Honours studies and then do my PhD all at the University of Southern Queensland.

“I didn’t have a clear career plan or know exactly what I wanted to do but I did know that I loved working alongside industry and in applied science, so I said yes to every opportunity that came my way.”

After finishing his PhD and working at a variety of research and innovation companies, a series of global events have put Dr Fry at the forefront of preparedness for COVID-19 on a global scale.

“I joined Ellume in Brisbane in early 2013 and the company had been founded with pandemic conditions front of mind,” he said.

“The 2009 swine flu pandemic is what planted the seed around the development of an at-home testing kit that could meet the need for a home flu test. We didn’t know when such a kit would be needed on a mass scale, but we were confident the day would come.

“Ultimately we were sure that what we were designing would assist in mass testing and help to minimise virus transmission while vaccines were being developed – it was always about buying time in the next pandemic.

“For COVID, we’ve never seen vaccines developed so fast but an at- home test like ours buys time so fewer people get sick or die while vaccines are being made available.”

Two million kits have already been deployed to the United States as part of a deal between Ellume and the US Department of Defence, with another eight million to be supplied in the coming months.

It’s a big deal for the son of a military family who still proudly calls Southern Queensland home.

“I am definitely the exception to the rule in my field insofar as most of the colleagues I studied with did their post-doctoral studies overseas or had to look for work a long way from Toowoomba,” Dr Fry said.

“I feel incredibly lucky to still be working on outcomes-based research from Queensland, but I also worked incredibly hard to always take on extra work during my study years to make the most of opportunities and increase my industry networks.

“Critically, I was always completely supported by my Mum and Dad – who made sure I was fed and housed while I was a full-time student – as well as the research staff at UniSQ who helped to guide me down the career path I needed to be on.”

dr scott fry in science lab
Provided by Ellume.