Transforming the management of epilepsy using an implantable device – St Vincent's Hospital (Tier 2)  

About 1% of Victorians currently have epilepsy, a third of which will not gain full seizure control through medication. The unpredictability of this condition leads to an increased risk of injury, reduces employment opportunities and burdens the individuals, their families and the healthcare system. 

Researchers at St Vincent’s Hospital are testing an EEG implant that accurately monitors seizures and could transform the clinical management of epilepsy. This technology allows clinicians to optimise treatment, reduce misdiagnosis and offer seizure warning to patients, removing some of the uncertainty suffered by epilepsy patients.  

A clinical trial of a slow release eye implant to treat glaucoma – PolyActiva Pty Ltd (Tier 2)

For conditions such as glaucoma, daily drop treatment is inconvenient and has poor patient compliance. Sustained release ocular implants represent a ground-breaking approach that reduces the risk of blindness associated with ineffective treatment adherence.  

PolyActiva are developing ocular implants administered over a 6-month period as an alternative to traditional drop treatments for patients suffering from glaucoma. PolyActiva is currently evaluating the safety of the implant in a phase 1a clinical trial.

Trialing a by-product of milk production to treat bacterial vaginosis – Metrodora Therapeutics Inc (Tier 2)

Bacterial vaginosis is the most prevalent vaginal infection in women and affected patients are at increased risk of contracting and transmitting sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy related complications. Antibiotic treatment options have limited effects, with most patients having a recurrent infection. 

Lactoferrin, a milk by-product, has significant antimicrobial properties that protect newborns, enhances the growth of beneficial gut lactobacilli and is toxic to many pathogenic bacteria. Metrodora Therapeutics has developed a GMP process and currently manufactures pharmaceutical-grade lactoferrin and aims to test lactoferrin as a treatment for bacterial vaginosis to reduce antibiotic use.

To pilot a synthetic hydrogel condom to improve product acceptance – Burnet Institute (Tier 2)

Condoms are the only consumer based medical device that can simultaneously protect against STIs and unplanned pregnancy. They make up a critical pillar of the global strategies towards sexual health, with the production of nearly 27 billion units distributed each year. However, reduced sensation is the largest reported issue limiting consistent use, contributing to condom avoidance that costs society an estimated 60 billion dollars annually.

To increase consumer uptake, the Burnet Institute in conjunction with condom developer Eudaemon are piloting a study of a more usable and pleasurable synthetic hydrogel condom that meets consumer demand.

A digital speech treatment tool to treat speech disorders in Victorian children – Murdoch Children's Research Institute (Tier 1)

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is leading the development of a digital tool for treatment of speech disorders in Victorian children. As over 50% of children with communication disabilities have unmet needs for speech services, the tool will dramatically reduce system burdens and make services more accessible.

Speech disorders increase the likelihood of poor reading, spelling and maths outcomes and lead to higher rates of school non-completion and restricted work opportunities.
The digital tool will provide a more effective and efficient means of intervention, will accelerate our Victorian-led research onto the world stage and build capacity for further research and commercialisation.

Rapid diagnostic tool for hepatitis C to speed access to treatment – Burnet Institute (Tier 1)

Victoria has over 65,000 people living with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) who are at an increased risk of liver failure and liver cancer. New direct-acting antivirals have recently become available through the pharmaceutical benefits scheme that have high cure rates, minimal side-effects and short treatment courses. 

To capitalise on these new treatments, the Burnet Institute is developing a point-of-care molecular assay for hepatitis C to increase access to these treatments. The diagnostic test for chronic HCV infection is required to increase the uptake of direct-acting antivirals and improve patient outcomes.

Using blockchain technology to monitor pharmaceutical and cannabis supply chains - Nucleotrace (Tier 1)

Counterfeit drugs are a major problem that are responsible for one million deaths and cost the industry 100 billion dollars each year. The capacity to trace, monitor and detect leaking or fraudulent nodes in complex pharmaceutical and cannabis supply chains is critical to ensuring public health, consumer confidence and to secure tax revenue streams.

Nucleotrace has developed the first product-integrated ‘blockchain’ analogue for monitoring pharmaceutical and cannabis supply chains. Our technology uses trace amounts of synthetic oligonucleotide encoded with product information and is compatible with new portable DNA sequencing technology. 

A single test to diagnose and manage epilepsy – Alfred Hospital (Tier 1)

Every year, 70 people per 100,000 are diagnosed with epilepsy. Treatment of this condition using antiepileptic drugs can cause a range of side effects or adverse drug reactions, including allergic skin reactions, toxicity, psychiatric complications and birth defects. 

Until recently, many of these side effects were unpredictable with little options for prevention and new methods require multiple tests and clinical visits for patients making appropriate management in a timely manner difficult.

In response, the Alfred Hospital is designing a point-of-care diagnostic device to prevent adverse drug reactions and provide prompt, individualised care. 

Reduce the time, cost and clinical experience required to install new cochlear implants – University of Melbourne (Tier 1)

Annually 350 adults receive a cochlear implant through the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. A large increase in demand is predicted due to the ageing population and widening implant candidate criteria, which allows more Victorians to access this life-changing medical device.

Determining the electrical stimulation levels which optimise hearing for an individual cochlear implant is time consuming and requires a trained and experienced clinician. The University of Melbourne is developing a smart algorithm to predict these levels to improve evidence-based health outcomes and reduce time and cost requirements for health services.

Using 3D designed and printed jaw implants for oral cancer patients – St Vincent's Hospital (Tier 1)

Oral cancer makes up 2-3% of all cancers in the Western world, equating to over 1200 major jaw resections per year in Australia. Current treatment is highly complex, involving long and protracted operations on the jaw and remote donor sites. The surgical impact of this treatment includes significant scarring and rehabilitation, lack of jaw function and infection risks.

St Vincent’s Institute is improving surgical outcomes for oral cancer patients with an innovative virtual simulation, and 3D designed and printed jaw implants. Prostheses eliminate the need for distant tissue/bone donor sites reducing the overall morbidity of the reconstructive process and the operating time.

Stem cell manufacture for use in cell therapy and regenerative medicine – University of Melbourne (Tier 1)

The combined fields of cell therapy and regenerative medicine are multibillion-dollar world markets, with many of these technologies founded on mesenchymal stem cells. However, the cost of stem cell-based therapies is prohibitively high and major impediment to their industrial production and clinical use is that the cells must be expanded to very high numbers in culture to meet clinical needs, and during this expansion the cells undergo a dramatic loss of potency. Once a large enough quantity of cells is produced, more than half are “filler” cells that lack necessary properties. 

To meet future demand, the University of Melbourne is researching methods of delivering mesenchymal stem cells by generating industrially scalable biomaterials that facilitate the expansion and delivery. This research will also provide injectable and bioactive hydrogels that enable cell encapsulation and delivery. These products will support many cell therapy and regenerative medicine applications.

To develop an early biomaker for Alzheimer's disease – The Florey (Tier 1)

Levels of a specific cholesterol have been found to decline with age in both humans and mice, and this decline is significantly enhanced in a brain with Alzheimer's disease.

The Florey aims to demonstrate the proof-of-concept that these cholesterol levels will have lowered before the presentation of cognitive decline, uncovering a potential underlying cause of dementia and leading to the development of an accessible early diagnostic blood test for Alzheimer’s disease. The results will be analysed by the University of Melbourne. 

Detecting seizures with artificial intelligence – Alfred Health (Tier 1)

Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the leading cause of death in people with drug-resistant epilepsy. It often occurs in isolation during the sleep period and is associated with brain activity suppression and rapid cardiorespiratory shut-down immediately following a convulsive seizure. 

Powered by advances in technology, Alfred Health is building an epilepsy monitoring unit driven by machine learning. This technology has shown significant potential in clinical medicine and can help to extend the continuum of care for patients with epilepsy outside the hospital setting for more vigorous, high-quality monitoring and improve clinical care. 

A more accurate way of documenting seizures may also allow for better understanding of the effectiveness of therapies on seizure frequency in individual patients. Furthermore, improved seizure detection will relieve the stress, anxiety and uncertainty for patients with epilepsy to gain control in their currently limited lives.

Improving surgery outcomes after colorectal cancer – University of Melbourne (Tier 1)

In 2016, nearly 4000 Victorians were diagnosed with bowel cancer. Around 95% of these patients required major surgery to remove the tumour and many of these patients will have had iron deficiency, either due to chronic blood loss from the tumour, inflammation from the tumour mass, or both. Non-Anaemic Iron Deficiency (NAID) affects 1500 Victorians per year and is less acted upon than iron deficiency anaemia. 

The University of Melbourne aims to determine if non-anaemic iron deficiency is associated with worse outcomes after surgery for colorectal cancer relative to patients who are non-anaemic and iron replete.