A 3D printed spinal cage, genetically engineered immune cells to fight cancer, and microwearables for precision medicine are among 11 visionary healthcare innovations to share in $10 million in grants from the Federal Government’s BioMedTech Horizons program.

The successful recipients were selected from a field containing some of the leading-edge outfits in healthcare, in a process the head of MTPConnect said showed the Australian sector is “punching above its weight” in terms of its global potential.  

“We were delighted by the overwhelming response of over 200 [expressions of interest] received from the sector, many of which were deemed-investment worthy. The high-quality of the applications demonstrates that Australia is punching above its weight when it comes to innovation in precision medicine, 3D anatomical printing and digital health,” CEO of MTP Connect Sue MacLeman told Healthcare IT News Australia.

“We could lead the world if the right projects receive the right funding.”

This initial investment from the $35 million BioMedTech Horizons program will increase the number of biotechnology and medical technology innovations to reach proof-of-concept stage and obtain proof-of-concept status.

MacLeman said the key criteria for the program was a focus on priority areas including precision medicine, 3D printing and digital health evolution.

“Innovative technologies in these areas can play a key role in fostering the development of technologies and improved health services and systems, to address national health priorities,” she said.

The 11 projects address global megatrends including precision healthcare and the digital evolution, as well as forecasted areas of unmet clinical need such as immunology, advanced prosthetics and infectious diseases.

“The projects selected in the first round are all positioned to have national impact, to not only transform and customise healthcare for all Australians but to also address key barriers across the sector and extend our world class standing.”

The program is also designed to stimulate collaboration across disciplines and between the research, industry and technology sectors to fuel entrepreneurship and fast-track ideas and discoveries to market.

This first complement of recipients includes a rapid diagnostic for the pathogens that cause sepsis, a life-threatening disease that kills over 6 million people each year globally, and more than 5000 Australians. A time critical medical emergency, every hour without treatment increases a patient's chance of dying by 7.6 per cent, yet there is no definitive test for sepsis and more than 30 per cent of cases are misdiagnosed. 

Anorther project will develop minimally-invasive, pain-free microwearables which apply sensors to the skin to access key biomarkers and biosignals. With the potential to leapfrog traditional diagnostics, WearOptimo is at the nexus of the growing markets for IoT, personalised medicine and wearable devices.

“Australia has a world-leading health and medical research capability, both in quality and quantity of output. However, there is not the same level of research commercialisation in Australia compared to some of our major R&D peers, and early-stage businesses often find it difficult to cross the first ‘valley of death’,” MacLeman said.

The BioMedTech Horizons program will support pre-clinical research and development for the Orthocell 3D printed bone-ligament-bone graft for sufferers of Scapholunate Interosseous Ligament (SLIL) injury to start human clinical trials, seek regulatory approval and commercialise. The most common of wrist ligament injuries, SLIL injuries cause dislocation of scaphoid and lunate bones and can cause long-term disability and be career-ending for athletes.

The program will also provide the funding for device production for preclinical testing of the Allegra Orthopaedics synthetic 3D printed spinal cage, which works to regenerate bone under spinal load conditions and is completely resorbed by the body.

“We’re very excited by the projects selected and their promising projected outcomes, due to their focus on industry collaboration and global market needs including megatrends affecting the sector, that are both critical to achieving commercialisation success,” MacLeman said.

The BioMedTech Horizons invetsment is in line with the government’s agreement with the Medical Technology Association of Australia, which includes a $30 million injection to support development of new and innovative device technologies, and due to the overwhelming number of high quality submissions an additional $5 million was added to the fund.

“Global advances in medical technology have resulted in a 56 per cent reduction in hospital stays and a 16 per cent drop in annual mortality over the past 20 years. This shows the significant value that medical technology can provide – saving lives, improving patients’ lives and saving costs to our health system,” CEO of the MTAA Ian Burgess said.

“With an ageing population comes major challenges for our health sector. MedTech will play a vital role in tackling these challenges, and these 11 recipients, with a focus on precision medicine and 3D anatomical printing, will contribute towards improved health outcomes.”

Announcing the successful recipients yesterday, Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the Federal Government 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,” Hunt said.

The BioMedTech Horizons program is being delivered as a part of the government’s $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.

The projects to receive funding are:

  • Development of a 3D printed graft for surgical repair of the Scapholunate Interosseous wrist ligament (SLIL) – Griffith University, Orthocell, University of Western Australia, Queensland University of Technology.
  • B3D Cervical Interbody Fusion Device, a fully synthetic spinal cage that works to regenerate bone under spinal load conditions and be completely resorbed by the body – Allegra Orthopaedics, University of Sydney, University of Wollongong, Boron Molecular, Sabre Medical.
  • BioPen, the first in-situ bioprinting treatment for cartilage injuries – The University of Melbourne, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, University of Wollongong, Swinburne University of Technology.
  • CAR-T immunotherapies for solid cancers – Carina Biotech, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, The University of Adelaide, Women’s and Children’s Hospital Adelaide, CTM@CRC.
  • A clinically-accredited and commercial-ready genome profiling platform to provide competitively priced and rapid local testing to advance Australia’s precision cancer medicine capabilities – Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Genome.One, Illumina.
  • EarGenie, a system for personalised management of hearing impairment for infants, aiming to provide life-long benefits using a combination of electrophysiology and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to perform a diagnostic hearing evaluation – Bionics Institute, Hydrix, Taralye Early intervention Centre, Plunkett Consulting Group, Australian Hearing.
  • Gennaris Neural Systems, a wireless Brain-Machine Interface offering the potential to bypass damage to nerves and neural pathways, restoring function to affected areas of the brain to restore basic vision – Monash University, Alfred Health, MiniFAB.
  • WearOptimo microwearables, minimally-invasive, pain-free sensors applied to the skin to access key biomarkers and biosignals for both episodic and continuous monitoring to advance precision medicine – WearOptimo, The Australian National University, Queensland Government, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Australia National Fabrication Facility.
  • 3D printing and manufacture of PoreStar, a novel Porous Polyethylene Implant Material – Anatomics.
  • Aimalux, a rapid diagnostic for the pathogens that cause sepsis – Biotech Resources, Monash University Centre for Biospectroscopy, The Alfred Hospital, Monash Health, Hydrix.
  • Development of a microfluidic gene delivery device for immune cell modification and optimisation for clinical use – Indee, University of South Australia Future Industries Institute, Main Sequence Ventures, Defence Science Technologies Group, University of Sydney, Becton Dickinson.




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