Collaboration – The key to med-tech success

With government grants of up to $1m on offer, and exciting collaborative projects between industry and academia occurring, innovative biomedical devices and technologies are being developed, built and commercialised in Australia for the global market. Read more -


ACMD Project Director is announced

The Federal Government’s funding commitment of $30m in March this year, and the Victorian Government funding of $60m, has enabled work to progress on this once-in-a-lifetime $180m health and research infrastructure project.

The ACMD is the largest and most significant infrastructure project at St Vincent’s Melbourne since the establishment of Building A (Main Hospital). As progress on the project accelerates, a dedicated team is being formed to bring the ACMD, Australia’s first hospital-based biomedical engineering facility, to life.

We are pleased to announce that Andrew Crettenden has been appointed Project Director, Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery.

Andrew has worked in the role of Executive Director, Strategy and Planning for several years and over the past decade, he has mounted a major campaign to garner government and stakeholder support for the project. It is therefore fitting that he steps into this new role to see the project through commissioning and opening.

The Project Director role is the first appointment of a dedicated team of project experts that will work with ACMD partners and the facility design team to create this landmark facility.

The St Vincent’s Hospital Foundation (Victoria) is working hard to secure donor support and we are collaborating with our commercial partners to complete the necessary funding for the ACMD.

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2019 ACMD Research Week

The Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery Research Week is a celebration of research activity across the campus held on an annual basis. Click here for more information.

The broad aims of the ACMD Research Week are to:

  • Encourage excellence in on-campus research

  • Promote interaction between clinicians and scientists on the campus

  • Provide opportunities for researchers in different disciplines (allied health,clinical, nursing and scientific) to present their work at the same forum

  • Contribute to evidence-based healthcare highlight the range of research technologies and resources that draw the campus together

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Federal funding confirmed to support breakthrough medical research

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt visited ACMD to confirm the $30 million of Federal funding for the Centre.

Professor Peter Choong’s breakthrough research which will see hundreds of Australians who battle severe bone cancers being treated with replacement limbs, was profiled as a part of the visit.

2019 State Budget confirms $60 million for ACMD

The Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery (ACMD) partners are grateful to the Victorian Government for confirming its allocation of $60 million towards the construction of Australia’s first hospital-based biomedical engineering facility in its recent 2019 Budget announcement.

Each of the ACMD partners - St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, The University of Melbourne, Australia Catholic University, The University of Wollongong, St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, The Bionics Institute, RMIT University, Centre for Eye Research Australia, and Swinburne University of Technology - are committed to getting the best health outcomes, for all Victorians, and all Australians..

This announcement brings the ACMD another step closer to becoming Australia’s first hospital-based biomedical research and development hub.

Federal government commits $30 million

We are delighted to announce a $30 million funding commitment from the Federal Government towards the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery (ACMD).

According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, ACMD will keep the city at the global cutting edge of medical technology.


The Centre, which is the only facility where biomedical research and development takes place in a hospital, has already produced an incredible array of medical innovations. For Epilepsy sufferers there’s a head implant that talks to patient’s mobile phone, warning them when a seizure is imminent, and the 3D printing of human stem cells, which are injected into joints to prevent the onset of osteoarthritis. 

Researchers at ACMD have also developed a 3D printing technique that produces replacement human bones and uses surgical robots to fit them to cancer patients or trauma victims. 

Professor Mark Cook of St Vincent’s Hospital said this unique facility will be like nothing else in Australia. “There are very few of these sorts of arrangements like this in the world where you’ve actually got the bio-engineering facility in a clinical site.’’ 

The federal funding, along with the $60 million that has been promised by the state government, will allow the $180 million project to go ahead. Private philanthropy and commercial partners are expected to complete the required funding for this remarkable project.

To talk to us about funding opportunities, please contact Lyn Amy CEO of St Vincent’s Health Foundation:

Call: 0417 589 953


ACMD Research Week

The Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery Research Week is a celebration of research activity across the Eastern Hill campus, held on an annual basis. The broad aims of the ACMD Research Week are to:

  • Encourage excellence in on-campus research
  • Promote interaction between clinicians and scientists on the campus
  • Provide opportunities for researchers in different disciplines (allied health,clinical, nursing and scientific) to present their work at the same forum
  • Contribute to evidence-based healthcare highlight the range of research technologies and resources that draw the campus together.

For more information, visit the ACMD 2018 website, or refer to the attached key events flyer.

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Biopen receives funding to boost health innovations in Australia

One of 11 projects selected for $10 million BioMedTech Horizons program investment

9:30am AEST, Tuesday 17 April, Melbourne, AustraliaMTPConnect – the Medical Technology, Biotechnology, and Pharmaceutical (MTP) Industry Growth Centre – and the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, today announced that Biopen and 10 other projects are successful recipients of investment from the Australian Government’s $35 million BioMedTech Horizons program. The program aims to help Australia move more cutting edge-ideas and breakthrough discoveries towards proof-of-concept and commercialisation, and stimulate collaboration across disciplines between the research, industry and technology sectors to maximize entrepreneurship and idea potential.

The project, led by St Vincent’s Professor Peter Choong is focused on creating a hand-held 3D printer pen filled with stem cell ink, to ‘draw’ new cartilage into damaged knees. It will give surgeons greater control over joint repairs, and reduce the time a patient is in surgery. The Biopen has been developed by the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery, based at St Vincent’s Hospital, the University of Wollongong and the University of Melbourne. This project also incorporates Biosphere, a novel stem cell technology developed by Swinburne University and St Vincent’s Hospital, to refine the cell numbers for tissue regeneration. The Biopen paves the way for the Melbourne-led team to eventually repair damaged bones, muscles and tendons, and reduce the need for joint replacements

“The BioPen project represents the convergence of science, engineering and medicine to deliver a novel solution for repairing cartilage damage using the latest technologies in stem cell science, 3-D printing and tissue engineering. The BioMedTechHorizons grant will enable the partnership between Australian academia, healthcare and industry to lead and translate our research discoveries at the coal face of care.”
Sue MacLeman, Managing Director and CEO of MTPConnect, said the BioMedTech Horizons program is providing the necessary support to boost investment, commercialisation and success of health innovations in Australia.

“These first investments from the BioMedTech Horizons program are set to fuel ongoing innovation in Australia, in line with MTPConnect’s priorities for growth of the medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.  Biopen and the other 10 outstanding projects address identified global megatrends including precision healthcare and the digital evolution, as well as forecasted areas of unmet clinical need, such as immunology and advanced prosthetics.”
Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, said, “The Turnbull Government is committed to improving the health services for all Australians and will continue to invest in better treatment, care and medical research.  Our researchers are innovators and this investment will speed up the journey from idea to reality. These technologies have the potential to create better health outcomes for Australians, while driving investment and strengthening our economy. All Australians benefit from investment in health and medical research.”

The BioMedTech Horizons program is being delivered as a part of the Australian Government’s $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund, which aims to transform health and medical research to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to health system sustainability through targeted strategic investment. 
For more information on the BioMedTech Horizons program and first round recipients, please visit:

About Biopen
Project partners:
St Vincent’s Hospital (lead site), University of Melbourne, University of Wollongong, Swinburne University of Technology
Project Description:
The BioPen is a handheld device which uses 3D-printing methods to let surgeons 'draw' live cells and growth factors directly onto the site of an injury – to help accelerate the regeneration of functional bone and cartilage. Orthopaedic surgeons have used it in test cases to design customised implants during surgery. It is designed to accelerate the regeneration of functional bone and cartilage. The pen delivers the patient’s own live and growing cells inside a biopolymer, protected by a second, outer layer of gel material. The two layers are combined in the pen head as the surgeon ‘draws’ the ink on the damaged bone layer by layer to form a 3D scaffold in the damaged bone.  
A low powered ultra-violet light source fixed to the device solidifies the inks to protect the embedded cells during dispensing. Once in the body, the cells multiply, differentiate into nerve cells, muscle cells or bone cells, and eventually form functioning tissue. The project is on the cusp of being ready for human trials. A key aspect of the project will be to develop a unique bioink formulation as well as work with or establish a new entity to produce and supply larger quantities of the ink formulation for commercial purposes. This will be done under the auspices of the ARC for Electromaterials Science (ACES), headquartered at the University of Wollongong.

About MTPConnect
MTPConnect was formed as a not-for-profit organisation in November 2015 as part of the Australian Government’s Industry Growth Centres Initiative to accelerate the rate of growth of the MTP sector to achieve greater commercialisation and establish Australia as an Asia-Pacific hub for MTP companies.

Just in time implants set to radically advance tumour surgery

This media release was first distributed on 30 October 2017 by ACMD partner RMIT. We have published this release as ACMD partners St Vincent's Hospital and RMIT University, and ACMD supporter Stryker, are participants or contributors to this research.

 A major new Australian research project is set to transform the way physicians surgically treat tumours and bone cancer, and dramatically improve patient and healthcare outcomes. The five-year project, “Just in time implants”, brings together the Australian Government, RMIT University, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and global medical technology firm Stryker. Worth more than $12.1 million in research effort, the work is funded by Stryker with co-funding from the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), who is contributing $2.36 million in cash. Lead researcher, RMIT’s Professor Milan Brandt, and the project team will combine 3D printing, robotic surgery and advanced manufacturing to create tailored implants for patients with bone cancer. 

“Our aim is to bring the technology to the theatre,” Brandt said. “While patients are having their cancer removed in the operating theatre, in the next room, we are custom printing an implant to precisely fill the space left after removal of the diseased bone.” St Vincent’s Hospital’s Professor Peter Choong said just in time implants will transform the delivery of care for people with bone cancer. “By combining specialised imaging techniques, 3D printing and the accuracy of robotic assisted surgery, we are aiming to deliver a personalised implant in time for the surgeon to remove the cancer and repair the patient’s bone in the one operation,” Choong said. “This process will expand the surgical options available to patients and surgeons and increase the potential for limb saving surgery.” 

The novel process represents a major shift in the way implants are designed, manufactured and supplied and could lead to bespoke local manufacturing. “This is the future of implants and robotic surgery,” said Director, Research and Development for Stryker South Pacific Rob Wood. “Australia is leading the way globally in developing and implementing new manufacturing models and technology in the medical space – combining robotic surgery and additive manufacturing. “We are extremely excited about this project and the incredible benefits that this research will deliver to patients in Australia and across the world.” 

David Chuter, IMCRC CEO and Managing Director said that the project was a great example of how research-led innovation in manufacturing drives better products, services and processes. 

“This is a significant research investment into Australia by Stryker – seeing a global organisation collaborating with two Australian universities and a local hospital. It highlights how Australia’s medtech environment offers research partners a unique setting for innovative research programs,” said Chuter. 

“Specifically, this project will establish advanced manufacturing capabilities that will ensure competitive advantage domestically and internationally. 

“It will also train a new generation of engineers and researchers in medical robotics and the additive manufacturing of medical implants.” 

Professor Emmanuel Josserand, Director of the Centre for Business and Social Innovation at UTS, said the project would also have a wider impact for business and the economy, as Australia transitions from traditional to advanced manufacturing. 

“Not only will there be direct business opportunities for Australian companies to become medical suppliers to Stryker, with its global supply chains, but there will also be an opportunity for the technologies and manufacturing know-how developed within this project to transfer over time to other local industries,” Professor Josserand said. 

“These sorts of advanced manufacturing capabilities will ensure competitive advantage for Australian businesses, domestically and internationally.” 

Research centre leads 3D bioprinting revolution

Thanks to ACMD partner RMIT University for sharing this article with us. 

RMIT is a key partner in a revolutionary biomedical research centre bringing health professionals, academics and industry together to take bionic research to the next level.

BioFab3D@AMCD is Australia’s first robotics and biomedical engineering centre embedded within a hospital.

The $5 million purpose-built research facility aims to bring the best surgeons, biomedical engineers, biologists and robotics experts together under one roof to pioneer innovations such as re-engineered limbs, muscles, tissues and nerves.

The centre will help teams explore the real-time development and production of replacement body parts, which can be surgically implanted into patients.

RMIT has joined partners St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, University of Melbourne, University of Wollongong and Swinburne University of Technology in establishing the facility.

Professor Peter Coloe, Pro Vice-Chancellor Science, Engineering and Health and Vice-President, said the collaborative partnership enabled RMIT to remain at the forefront of the 3D bioprintingrevolution.

“At RMIT, we want to contribute to understanding and solving the biggest challenges faced by industry and the community, so our research can make a real impact,” Coloe said.

“Working closely with industry and medical specialists, our researchers were able to develop Australia’s first 3D-printed spinal implant.

“It’s this kind of vital collaboration that BioFab3D@AMCD will support, pulling together not just the best research minds but top clinicians and industry partners, who all share the same vision of transforming the lives of patients through pioneering biomedical engineering innovations.”

The research facility aims to bring the best surgeons, biomedical engineers, biologists and robotics experts together under one roof.

Multi-disciplinary teams at the centre will work towards building biological structures such as organs, bones, brain, muscle, nerves and glands: almost anything that needs repair because of disease or physical trauma.

RMIT academics led by Senior Lecturer Dr Richard Williams, from the School of Engineering, are working on a project that could one day see 3D-printed tissue and fabricated artificial organs become a reality.

“Our vision is this will eventually lead to real-time printing of 3D implants, while a patient is in surgery,” Williams said.

“The possibilities are endless and through this new centre, we now have even more advanced equipment that will assist in accelerating our research.”

Run as a not-for-profit initiative, the BioFab3D@AMCD laboratory forms an integral part of St Vincent’s planned medical discovery hub, the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery.

The proposed Aikenhead centre would continue developing biomedical solutions, and would be built on the corner of Nicholson Street and Victoria Parade for $180 million.

St Vincent’s Deputy Foundation Director Katerina Kantalis said: “This hub will fuse medicine, engineering, science and industry to yield powerful economic, patient and healthcare outcomes.”

The BioFab3D@AMCD is now open, with the last few pieces of leading-edge equipment to be delivered in coming months.                 

Story: Aeden Ratcliffe

Melbourne surgeons use 3D printer pen filled with stem cells to draw knee cartilage

MELBOURNE surgeons have used a 3D printer pen filled with stem cell ink to “draw” new cartilage into damaged knees, opening up a world of possibilities for human body part replacements.

The breakthrough Biopen paves the way for the Melbourne-led team eventually to repair damage to bones, muscles and tendons, and even to tissue in organs such as the heart, the liver, and the lungs.

It has been used in six sheep to repair knee injuries similar to those commonly suffered by Australian rules footballers.

St Vincent’s Hospital orthopaedic surgeon Professor Peter Choong said the technique could be adapted to treat a range of conditions in humans.

“The healing was exceptional,” Prof Choong said.

“Although we have used this primarily for cartilage, we can already see how this can be used in a variety of other clinical situations.”

The Biopen was developed by the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery, based at St Vincent’s Hospital, and the University of Wollongong.

It allows surgeons to use 3D printing technology to draw missing tissue into a patient. The toothpaste-like ink mixes a gelatine substance with pluripotent stem cells that can be taken from a patient on the day of the surgery. Growth factors spur the stem cells to grow into the specific type of tissue needed.

An ultraviolet light fixed to the pen causes the ink mixture to dry on contact, allowing surgeons to build up layers and fill in the damaged area.

St Vincent’s orthopaedic surgeons used the Biopen to treat 1cm cartilage tears in sheep. After short periods of rehabilitation, the sheep were all able to bear weight and had regrown cartilage far stronger than “repair cartilage” found after existing treatments.

Prof Choong said the results were now being used to push for a National Health and Medical Research Council grant to perfect the treatment over the next three years.

Victoria’s Small Business, Innovation and Trade Minister, Philip Dalidakis, said the breakthrough was nothing short of astounding.

Note: This article originally appeared in The Herald Sun and was written by


ACMD's BioFab3D facility rates a mention in Naturejobs

Nature Index today published an online interactive map highlighting the collaborations between Melbourne's research institutions. The map is supported by a Naturejobs supplement published in Nature today. The supplement focuses on ACMD's BioFab3D Facility; an excerpt appears below. Thanks to Bio Medical Research Victoria for sponsoring this initiative.

Career guide Melbourne

Welcome to Melbourne, where science is fuelled by a better class of coffee.

When Irish-born materials scientist Cathal O'Connell finished his undergraduate degree at Trinity College, Dublin, in 2008, he started looking for opportunities to apply his knowledge to biological challenges. “Australia was the obvious place to come,” he says.

It was a pragmatic move. With a total population of approximately 24.5 million, Australia is home to around only 0.3% of the world's population — but it produces 2.6% of the high-quality research, with a particular focus on biomedicine.

And Australia's weightiest contributor to biomedical research is Melbourne. Two of the country's top three universities for life science, Monash University and the University of Melbourne, are based here (see 'Ahead of the pack').

“In biomedical research, only two cities in the world, Boston and London, would compare to Melbourne,” says Ian Smith, vice-provost for research and research infrastructure at Monash, who moved from the United Kingdom to Australia in 1984.

Besides its two biggest universities, Melbourne boasts six others with their own noted research strengths, along with renowned medical research institutes and several large research hospitals. These institutes — employing more than 10,000 scientists, clinicians and technical staff — are generally clustered into geographic hubs, fostering easy collaboration (see 'Clustering innovation').

The state of Victoria consistently wins around 45% of Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council funding. “That tells you something about the quality of research here,” says Smith. Core strengths include cancer, infection and immunity, rational drug design, and medical devices, he says, offering good career opportunities for young researchers.

Historically, Melbourne has lagged behind at cashing in on those strengths. “We don't have a lot of the industries that should be coming out of universities like Monash, so career opportunities outside academia are a little limited,” Smith says. “But the culture is changing.”

Medical devices is one area in which Melbourne researchers can find significant commercial role models — most famously Cochlear Limited, which commercialized the 'bionic ear', a hearing implant developed by Graeme Clark at the University of Melbourne. This device, which connects electrodes to auditory neurons, was a highly collaborative effort. “You had physicists and engineers, biologists and materials scientists, all working together to solve a problem,” says O'Connell.

Today, O'Connell manages a collaboration of his own: BioFab3D, a recent addition to Melbourne's biomedical research scene. Launched in late 2016, BioFab3D is pioneering the 3D printing of living cells to replace damaged or diseased tissues. Supported by the University of Melbourne, O'Connell's lab is located at St Vincent's Hospital, and is also co-funded by the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University and Swinburne University of Technology.

“This lab is a small pathfinder for what will come later,” says O'Connell, pointing to plans for a new Aus$180 million (US$135 million) facility devoted to biomedical engineering called the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery.

The centre will focus on exactly the kind of collaboration that O'Connell was hoping to find when he moved to Melbourne: biomedicine meeting materials science. He cites an example from 2015, when Spanish surgeons needed a replacement ribcage for a patient with a tumour growing in his chest wall. The scientists asked Melbourne firm Anatomics to design it, uploading their patient's computed tomography scans directly to the company. The ribcage was printed in Clayton, at the centre for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the national research agency.



Implanted Device May Predict Epilepsy Seizures, Study Suggests

An implanted device that monitors brain activity may offer a way to predict seizures in people with uncontrolled epilepsy, a small pilot study suggests.

The findings, reported online May 2 in the journal Lancet Neurology, are based on only 15 patients, and the device worked far better in some than others. But experts said the results are promising, and should prompt further studies.

"We just wanted to see if this is feasible, and this study shows that it is," said lead researcher Dr. Mark Cook, of the University of Melbourne and St. Vincent's Hospital in Australia.

The prospect of being able to predict seizures is "very exciting," he said, in part because it's the uncertainty of the disorder that can dim people's quality of life.

If people know a seizure is coming, Cook said, they can avoid driving orswimming that day, for example. They might also be able to adjust their medication use.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which the brain's normal electrical activity is temporarily disrupted, leading to a seizure. Seizures can be obvious, causing unconsciousness or convulsions, but often they trigger subtler changes in a person's perceptions or behavior -- like a short staring spell, confusion or an altered sense of taste or smell.

Epilepsy is usually managed with medication, but for 30 percent to 40 percent of people with the condition, drugs don't keep seizures at bay. The new study included 15 people who were having at least two to 12 "disabling" seizures a month that were resistant to drug therapy.

Cook's team implanted each patient with the experimental device, which consists of electrodes placed between the skull and the brain, plus wires that run to a unit implanted under the skin of the chest.

That unit wirelessly sends data to a hand-held device that flashes a red warning light if there is a "high likelihood" of an impending seizure. (A white light signals a "moderate" likelihood, while a blue light means the odds are low.)

For the first four months, the devices collected data on patients' seizures without actually flashing warnings. For 11 of the 15 patients, the implants seemed capable of correctly predicting a high risk of seizure at least 65 percent of the time. Those patients went on to the next four-month phase, where the devices were activated to give warnings.

Over those four months, the implants worked fairly well for eight patients -- correctly giving the high-risk warning anywhere from 56 percent to 100 percent of the time.

There are plenty of questions left, said Dr. Ashesh Mehta, director of epilepsy surgery at the North Shore-LIJ Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center in Great Neck, N.Y.

"This study is an important first step," said Mehta, who was not involved in the research. "The next step would be to implant these in a larger sample of patients. And you need to see which groups of patients might be good candidates for this."

Mehta said someone who has seizures only once in a while might not get enough benefit to outweigh the downsides of false alarms, for example. And someone who has many seizures each month might get little added information from the warning system, he said.

It may be the people who fall in the middle -- who have disabling seizures at unpredictable intervals -- who would stand to benefit the most, he said.

But any benefits need to be weighed against the risks. Besides false alarms and unnecessary anxiety, the implant itself can cause problems. In this study, three patients had serious complications, including one with an infection and one whose chest device moved and caused her pain. Two patients ultimately had the implants removed.

Still, Mehta agreed that the technology could prove helpful to some people with epilepsy. If they know a seizure is coming, they might take an extra dose of their medication, for example.

An implanted device like this could also give patients and their doctors more information about their epilepsy, he added. In this study, the implants revealed that most patients were suffering more seizures than they thought; one patient who reported 11 a month was actually having more than 100.

In real life, Mehta said, it can be hard to know if you're feeling bad because of side effects from epilepsy medication or because you're having a lot of seizures. A device like this could help sort that out.

But what's still needed is evidence that this device does improve the quality of patients' lives, Mehta said.

The study was funded by NeuroVista, the Seattle-based company developing the technology. Several of Cook's co-researchers work for the company.

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Mark Cook, M.D., professor, neurology, University of Melbourne, St. Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia; Ashesh Mehta, M.D., Ph.D., director, epilepsy surgery, North Shore-LIJ Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center, Great Neck, N.Y.; May 2, 2013, Lancet Neurology, online

The Bionics Institute vision realised 

The Bionics Institute is delighted to announce a $23.5m (AUD) investment by Hong Kong-based China Huarong International Holdings Ltd and State Path Capital Limited to develop and commercialise the next generation bionic eye.

This journey began twelve years ago when Professor Rob Shepherd from the Bionics Institute approached The Ian Potter Foundation to support our 'blue sky’ research to develop a bionic eye: an implant capable of restoring vision to people suffering degenerative eye diseases. This initial funding allowed early proof-of-concept research and two years later, John T Reid Charitable Trusts provided a significant grant shared with our clinical colleagues from the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) to support the Bionic Eye Biocompatibility and Efficacy Feasibility Study.

The confidence of these philanthropic organisations in the Bionics Institute was justified when in 2010 the Bionic Eye project was awarded a $50m federal grant from the Australian Research Council to fund an Australian-wide consortium (Bionic Vision Australia, BVA) of biomedical engineers, surgeons and scientists to bring a prototype bionic eye device to early clinical trial.  The commercial arm of BVA, Bionic Vision Technologies, today announced that it has raised $23.5m to move the bionic eye closer to the marketplace and into the hands of clinicians and patients.

Bionics Institute Director, Professor Rob Shepherd said, “I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedication and skills of our team of researchers and engineers at the Bionics Institute and our collaborators in Bionic Vision Australia, in particular our clinical partners at the Centre for Eye Research Australia.  This technology is about to revolutionise the clinical management of patients with late stage retinitis pigmentosa and within a decade I expect the bionic eye will have made a significant impact in the clinical management of other severe forms of visual impairment associated with the retina.”

The Bionics Institute was responsible for the design, manufacture, and safety testing of the prototype bionic eye, as well as the testing the patients’ perceptions in our purpose-built laboratory. Since the successful clinical trial of our prototype bionic eye (2012-2014: as part of BVA), our researchers have been working on all components of the bionic eye to improve the technology and the visual experience of recipients in preparation for the clinical trial of the next generation device, due to commence later this year.

The bionic eye aims to restore vision to those suffering from blindness caused by the loss of the light-sensitive cells of the retina. This technology electrically stimulates the surviving neurons within the retina via an implant containing an array of stimulating electrodes. The artificial vision will be used for tasks of orientation and mobility, as well as improving independence in activities of daily living.

Learn more about the bionic eye

Australian Research Council announcement 

The Bionics Institute gratefully acknowledges the contributions of numerous trusts and foundations, individual donors and government agencies for making this journey possible, including:

     Australian Research Council
     National Health and Medical Research Council
     The Ian Potter Foundation
     John T Reid Charitable Trusts
     Neville & Di Bertalli
     John & Janet Calvert-Jones
     John & Jennifer Prescott
     GJ & MA Jorgenson
     Jack & Robert Smorgon Families Foundation
     Ramaciotti Foundations

Bionic Vision Australia (2010 - 2016) was a national consortium of researchers from the: Bionics Institute, Centre for Eye Research Australia, National ICT Australia (now Data61), University of Melbourne and University of New South Wales, with the National Vision Research Institute, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and University of Western Sydney as project partners.

ACMD partners’ type 1 diabetes funding success

Two partners in the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery were recently awarded grants worth more than $2 million in early 2017.

The lead researchers on the two grants, Associate Professor Stuart Mannering (St Vincent’s Institute) and Dr Sybil McAuley (St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne), received funding for their research into type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that develops when the body’s immune cells mistakenly destroy the insulin-producing cells contained within the pancreas.

Associate Professor Stuart Mannering and his collaborator Professor Ed Stanley, from Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI), were awarded a $1.5 million Innovation Award from the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network (T1DCRN). The T1DCRN is a clinical research program led by JDRF Australia and funded by a Special Research Initiative through the Australian Research Council (ARC).

The Innovation Award team comprises Associate Professor Stuart Mannering (SVI), Professor Ed Stanley (MCRI), Dr Alisha Oshlack (MCRI), Dr Colleen Elso (SVI), Professor Andrew Elefanty (MCRI), Associate Professor Helen Thomas (SVI), Professor Tom Kay (SVI) and Professor Fergus Cameron from The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Their project is aimed at reconstructing the immune response that cause type 1 diabetes, which will allow the researchers to dissect exactly how the disease develops.

In 2015, a team from SVI led by Associate Professor Mannering and Professor Tom Kay, pioneered techniques to isolate immune cells from the pancreas of organ donors who had suffered from type 1 diabetes. This important breakthrough allowed them to analyse immune cells from the ‘scene of the crime’. MCRI’s Professors Ed Stanley and Andrew Elefanty are world-renowned experts in the field of stem cells; they’ve developed techniques that will allow the team to ‘grow’ insulin-producing cells from the stored blood of the original organ donor. These cells will be the ‘victims’ in the re-enactment, allowing the group to study the process of cell killing in type 1 diabetes in a powerful new way.

“Ultimately this work will reveal, for the first time, how and why the immune system kills the insulin-producing cells in people who develop type 1 diabetes. This will allow us to develop ways to measure this ‘bad’ immune response in healthy people who may be developing type 1 diabetes. Then, once we can see the crime unfolding we will be able to step in and stop it before it is too late.”

Dr Sybil McAuley, from Melbourne University’s Department of Medicine and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, was awarded an Early-Career Patient-Oriented Diabetes Research Award by JDRF International. The Award is valued for up to $750,000, for up to 5 years.  

Dr McAuley is spearheading a project that includes four studies involving adults with type 1 diabetes.

Dr McAuley explains, “The goal of the first three studies is to determine whether artificial pancreas use in a free-living environment has benefits over conventional diabetes therapy with insulin injections and pumps. These studies will involve a general adult group, a group of older people, and a sub-group of people with reduced warning signs of low blood glucose levels. The goal of the fourth study is to assess how the artificial pancreas device performs when challenged by different types of exercise, and whether this performance can be improved with extra information, in addition to glucose levels, such as relating to physical and biochemical changes which occur with exercise.”

An artificial pancreas is a device that automates blood glucose management, by measuring glucose levels and automatically adjusting the amount of insulin delivered.

“I am hopeful that this project will provide new and useful information about the role of an artificial pancreas in helping to achieve automatic safe and effective control of blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes. There will also be a greater understanding of how these improvements in blood glucose levels, which may be brought about by this new technology, are linked to improvements observed in the physical and emotional state of people treated with an artificial pancreas.

“The information provided will also help to inform people with diabetes how to best use these devices, and their health professionals on how best to care for people using these devices.

“Finally, the research will explore potential inputs in addition to glucose that may improve performance of an artificial pancreas when challenged with exercise.”

BioFab3D@ACMD recipient of MTPConnect funding


BioFab3D@ACMD is one of 14 national projects to receive funding over two years from MTPConnect - the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Industry Growth Centre. These projects could also leverage as much as $32 million in industry partner funds.

Funding is via MTPConnect’s Project Fund Program, a "competitive, minimum dollar-for-dollar matched funding program that aims to invest in big, bold ideas to boost the innovation, productivity and competitiveness of Australia’s MTP sector."

Sue MacLeman, CEO of MTPConnect, said, “The MTP sector has a fantastic opportunity for growth, but is currently hindered by constraints including a lack of collaboration between business and research, skills shortages, the need for more focused funding and investment, and the need for more streamlined and harmonised regulatory and market access frameworks. There also needs to be a focus on globally competitive incentives and long-term policy vision and stability. The selection panel has chosen these 14 projects because they creatively address many of these barriers and have the potential to have a major impact on the sector.”

MTPConnect’s Project Funds have been made available as part of the Australian Government’s $250 million Industry Growth Centres Initiative.

For a full list of successful applicants and to see the full media release, visit MTPConnect.

New BioFab3D@ACMD


Imagine a future in which joints and limbs damaged through cancer or trauma could be rebuilt. Where the best surgeons, biomedical engineers, biologists and robotics experts come together with industry under one roof to give patients faced with amputation a fully functioning limb so they can walk, work or hold a loved one again.

St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne and our partners, University of Melbourne, University of Wollongong, RMIT University and Swinburne University of Technology, are at the forefront of the 3D bioprinting revolution. Together we are building BioFab3D@ACMD to change the landscape of healthcare as we know it.

BioFab3D@ACMD will be Australia's first robotics and biomedical engineering centre, embedded within a hospital. Researchers, clinicians, engineers and industry partners will work alongside each other with a vision to build biological structures such as organs, bones, brain, muscle, nerves and glands: almost anything that requires repair through disease and physical trauma.

Be part of this revolution.


Robotic arm that could give amputees the sensation of touch being tested in Melbourne

A robotic arm that could result in amputees regaining their sense of touch and increased movement is the latest breakthrough for Melbourne researchers trying to develop prosthetic limbs that work "like normal".


The joint-project between St Vincent's Hospital's Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery and Melbourne University is looking at the way the arm and brain signals communicate.

They have been able to send brain signals to the robotic arm, but now are looking at how to return those signals to give the sensation of touch.

Professor Peter Choong from St Vincent's Hospital said these new developments brought hope to amputees.

"It's really very exciting. If you're a patient who has lost a limb or part of a limb, something like this holds out hope for perhaps rebuilding them, allowing them to function much more normally than they do today," Professor Choong said.

The research has been ongoing for a number of years, but scientists believe they are now even closer to simulating a "normal" arm.

"We already have amazing developments in prosthetic limbs, and this research is more about allowing a person to have feel control on that limb, just like it were a normal human limb," Professor Choong said.

They hope to have the next breakthrough in the next couple of years as they understand how the brain reads and interprets signals.

Professor Choong said this latest step was a perfect example of the need for more scientific funding.

"There is a lot to be gained from science, the chief scientific officer's report shows that we contribute considerably to Australia's intellectual and economical wealth, and I think this is an area desperately in need for support from both federal and state governments."

ABC Online