A NEW $2 billion investment is heading in the direction of supercomputing facilities, microscopy and imaging capabilities, complex biology – including next generation sequencing – and support for clinical trials infrastructure.

Those are the leverage points for major new investment by the Federal Government in Australia’s medical research sector, continuing along the road to a goal of $20 billion in total funding for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) by 2020-21.

The Federal Government’s latest $2 billion Research Infrastructure Investment Plan gives the sector a welcome long-term – about 10 years – commitment to seeing Australian researchers have the tools they need to make new discoveries in medical research. 

According to Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) president Tony Cunningham, the funding will give the sector confidence to make co-investments. It will also give researchers the confidence to undertake long-term projects that will deliver health and economic benefits to the nation.

“The Investment Plan recognises an important fact – that we can only do world class research when we have access to world class research infrastructure,” Professor Cunningham said.

Prof. Cunningham applauded the government’s commitment of nearly $2 billion of funding announced in the Federal Budget for this Plan.

“This investment will make Australia a more attractive research destination, providing new opportunities for our best and brightest to stay here in Australia for their research career, and allow us to attract the very best global talent,” he said.

He said AAMRI was particularly pleased to see the new investment in medical research infrastructure.

“Our world-class research sector supports in excess of 150,000 jobs, and to keep supporting these jobs we need to keep supporting the infrastructure that underpins them,” Prof. Cunningham said.

He said the investment would help find ways to speed up identification of diseases such as cancer, develop new medical devices to deliver needle free vaccines and help develop new medical treatments to reduce future medical costs.

AAMRI, the peak body representing 49 medical research institutes across Australia, encompassing 15,000 staff and students, acknowledged that the Investment Plan provided a strategic, whole-of-government view to investing in Australia’s national research infrastructure system.

The Plan was developed following the Federal Government’s detailed consideration of the 2016 Roadmap, including nearly 500 written submissions and consultations with over 580 stakeholders.

The Medical Research Future Fund is regarded as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to significantly reshape the landscape of Australian medical research and innovation.

According to the AAMRI, Australia has world leading health and medical research and a world-class health system, but too often they operate in isolation from each other rather than as one system with the aim of a healthier community.

The MRFF was set up to provide the opportunity to bridge the gap between the two, seeing  Australian medical research and innovation in partnership with health practitioners.

Established by legislation in August 2015, the MRFF operates as an investment fund. With an account balance of around $7 billion and further capital injections to be made by the Australian Government over the next few years, the MRFF is scheduled to reach its target of $20 billion in 2020-21.

The MRFF’s capital is invested and the earnings are available to fund health and medical research and innovation.

www.aamri.org

www.researchaustralia.org

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ARCHITECTURE and engineering students at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have created a ‘Tower of Power’ solar charging kiosk – complete with sun-tracking panels and smartphone app.

The innovative project, supported by the former Emerson Network Power organisation now re-branded as Vertiv, is a stylish modern solar solution to enable students to charge their mobile devices under the sun on campus.

The QUT Tower of Power is an off-grid kiosk built with lightweight but durable materials and fitted with solar panels positioned for optimum efficiency. The kiosk has eight seats in total where students can sit and interact while their devices charge. It’s also connected to an application that allows students to see how many ports are available at any time.  

“We challenged design students to propose a structure for a smart solar mobile charging station,” said QUT Electrical Engineering Student Society (QUT EESS) president, Vishnu Kumar Arun.

“The students went above and beyond and created something that is truly innovative and that embodies the Internet of Things (IoT) and electronics projects developed by our engineering team.”

The winning students, chosen from four finalists in the competition, worked closely with the engineering teams of QUT EESS to modify the solution design for fabrication and real-world implementation and are now field testing it on campus. The hope is to expand on the project and get similar kiosks in place in other universities and organisations countrywide with a commercially viable solution.

Vertiv, which sponsored the competition and worked closely with the university to help secure the right batteries for the solution, has been inspired by the project and has ordered its own model of the kiosk to showcase to local government customers around the country as a potential tool for their IoT goals. The critical infrastructure company is also hoping to have a demonstration of the kiosk at Smart Cities Week in October.

“This simple yet innovative idea and execution of it has been a joy to be a part of,” said Alan Smith, senior solutions architect with Vertiv Australia and New Zealand. “This kind of idea is vital to the successful development of IoT and smart cities in Australia, and to make sure environmental efficiency is considered in line with infrastructure that makes sense for people.”

Vertiv ANZ associate director of national sales, Kirk Wetherell said, “Charging mobile devices isn’t the largest burden on the grid, but it still plays its part. This is a fusion of cool architecture and clever engineering and the result is an energy-efficient solution which could be used in a huge variety of settings.”

Co-designer of the Tower of Power, Lydia Carlton said, “We wanted to design something innovative and aesthetically pleasing. But we also felt it was important to make it an area where students could sit down and socialise while their devices charged; so we added seating to the inside and outside to cater for different weather.”

Another co-designer, architecture student Nikita Tongia said it presented a rare opportunity to collaborate on something that would have a direct positive impact on students.

“QUT has great initiatives supporting both sustainability and IoT and we felt this solution fitted in well with both,” Ms Tongia said.

Vertiv supports mobile and cloud computing markets with a portfolio of power, thermal and infrastructure management solutions including the Chloride, Liebert, NetSure and Trellis brands.

www.qut.edu.au

www.vertivco.com

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AUSTRALIA’S national science agency’s new mobile device app, CSIRO Energise, is plugging in ‘people power’ to help researchers understand how energy is used around the country.

By using the new CSIRO Energise app, ‘citizen scientists’ will help to paint a clearer picture of contemporary energy use to guide research and decisions concerning Australia’s energy future.

For example, solid data can help overcome information gaps around how much households pay for energy, what is driving these costs, and how to reduce these costs into the future. 

The app is a key component of CSIRO’s Energy Use Data Model project, which is collating, centralising and enhancing various streams of energy data.

Until now, this information has never been brought together, and the resulting platform will benefit researchers, government and industry.

Over time, users of CSIRO Energise will receive a range of ‘micro-surveys’ covering general household characteristics, tariffs and power costs, energy-usage patterns, appliances, uptake of renewables, and more.

The app will follow users’ responses over time and ask questions in response to specific events, like how air conditioning is used on hot days, and how that can then improve understanding and management of peak energy consumption.

CSIRO Energise is intended as a two-way communication channel, with users receiving insights including tips for energy efficiency in the home, cutting-edge research updates, and short videos from scientists.

CSIRO Energy director, Tim Finnigan said that by taking part, households across the country would provide valuable data to support the science that will ultimately improve national energy systems.

“We know the way Australians use energy is changing, but it’s important for us to know how quickly, and what’s driving that change,” Dr Finnigan said.

“CSIRO Energise will help fill missing pieces of the puzzle with robust, objective data in areas where our knowledge is lacking. This will ensure that CSIRO can continue to drive the innovation that guides an affordable, sustainable and reliable energy system.”

Project leader Adam Berry noted that consumer surveying has moved beyond large-scale mail-outs and focus groups.

“With CSIRO Energise we can ask important questions at critical points in time, for example in the wake of an extreme heatwave or unexpected blackout,” Dr Berry said.

“Getting this information quickly and from a broad sample of households means that we can quickly spot issues, and then start working on solutions.
“Every member of the public can make a valuable contribution to our work by completing these short surveys over time, telling us more about their energy world.”

CSIRO pointed out that data collected through the app remained on Australian servers, featured data encryption and was only accessible to authorised users.

www.csiro.au

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An Australian health researcher with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has received a number of awards for her contribution to the development of a new hybrid technique that enhances the effectiveness of an advanced form of radiation therapy for treating cancer.

Neutron Capture Enhanced Particle Therapy (NCEPT) involves injecting a patient with a neutron capture agent shortly before irradiation with proton or heavy ion therapy.  

The approach boosts the target dose without increasing the dose to healthy tissue and delivers a significant dose to secondary lesions outside the primary treatment area.

Mitra Safavi Naeini, the imaging quantification research lead in Human Health at ANSTO, has received one of the 2018 Fraunhofer Innovation Awards from the German Embassy, which will enable her to carry out proof-of-concept experiments at German particle therapy centres later this year.

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THE Australian Nucelar Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) is providing expertise and irradiation services for Sydney-based biomedical company OncoSil Medical, which is developing a device to treat pancreatic cancer tumours.

The company’s device, OncoSil, is an implantable radiotherapy device containing a phosphorus radioisotope which is used to treated patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer tumours.  

Evaluation of OncoSil is currently underway in a global clinical trial being conducted in Australia, US and UK, with 25 patients now successfully implanted. OncoSil’s approach involves the delivery of concentrated and localised radiation from microscopic sources which are inserted directly into a tumour. 

The OPAL multi-purpose nuclear reactor at ANSTO is providing ‘activation’ of the microparticles through the production of phosphorus-32 (32P); a radioisotope which is encapsulated within the microparticles.

The OncoSil implant is delivered directly to pancreatic tumours via an ultrasonically guided endoscopic procedure. 

There are several Australian patients among the subjects enrolled in the current global clinical trial, which is evaluating the safety and efficacy of the microparticles, in combination with chemotherapy, for adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. 

Preliminary results were reported by Oncosil Medical at the European Association of Nuclear Medicine in October last year in Vienna showing the device was able to control spread of disease by 100 percent up to 16 weeks post implantation, while also reducing tumour volumes by about 70 percent up to 12 weeks following the procedure.

These results are particularly impressive given the lack of breakthroughs in recent decades treating pancreatic cancer, and were favourably received by the nuclear medicine global community. 

Oncolsil Microparticles are designed to deliver a minimum dose radiation of 100 gray in one single treatment. It does this while at the same time sparing any significant dose to healthy tissue, such as the normal pancreas.

This internal radiation therapy can be compared with external beam therapy in which doses to the tumour are usually significantly lower, and the risk of collateral damage is significantly higher. 

There are more than 280,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer worldwide every year and 265,000 die of their disease.

Oncologists recommend conventional radiation therapy in some cases but it can damage healthy tissue. Almost 80 per cent of pancreatic cancer cases are inoperable. 

As a promising alternative, Oncosil Microparticles have been developed with the involvement of researchers and clinicians over several years. 

The useful properties of phosphorous radioisotopes have been known since the 1940s, and they have been used for the treatment of blood cancers, other metastatic malignancies, eye disease, as well as for diagnostic means and in palliative care. 

Microparticles of silicon containing phosphorous are placed in the OPAL reactor to activate the phosphorus forming an isotope of 32P which emits beta radiation.

Once activated the radioactive phosphorous has a half-life of about14days. 

The reactor is used to also provide a supply of the most commonly used nuclear medicine technetium-99m and other diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals for other industry partners.

“ANSTO, and OPAL, are pleased to play a role in the manufacture of this unique product that may offer an effective treatment option to people with advanced pancreatic cancer,” said ANSTO’s Dr Timothy Boyle. 

Commenting on the relationship, Daniel Kenny, CEO of OncoSil Medical said, “ANSTO has been a important partner for OncoSil Medical, and absolutely critical in the supply of radioactive microparticles for our medical device which we hope will make a real difference in the lives of those affected by pancreatic cancer. We appreciate all their support to date, and look forward to continuing to work together into the future.” 

OncoSil Medical continues to recruit patients to its global pancreatic cancer clinical study program across sites in Australia, US and UK.

www.ansto.gov.au

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THE LATEST innovations in the health sector – ranging from Guardian safety pendants to therapeutic robots – will be showcased at the inaugural Care Expo in Brisbane from September 14-15.

More than 100 exhibitors will take over the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre for Care Expo, which will encompass a wide range of special needs from physical, intellectual and aged care, to everyday ailments including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Event director, Bob Carroll, said the Care Expo would bring together a diverse range of exhibitors from community services and the not-for-profit sector, through to businesses that provide everything from travel services for people with a disability to therapeutic robots. 

“They will all be presenting their products and services as well as showcasing the latest in technology and innovation in the care industry,” Mr Carroll said.

Exhibitors will include innovative products such as Paro Therapeutic Robots – an interactive baby harp seal robot which produces the same documented benefits of animal therapy to treat patients in environments such as hospitals and extended care facilities where live animals can incur treatment or logistical difficulties.

OGO Technology will demonstrate how it has revolutionised mobility for wheelchair users with patented ‘Active Seat Control,’ an intuitive hands-free control system, to introduce a new era in personal transportation and freedom of movement for maximum independence.

Guardian Safety Pendants is at Care Expo to present the first medical alert unit smaller than a box of matches that works both inside and outside the home. The newest model, the iHelp, offers two-way voice communication, GPS location and Automatic Fall Detection.  

Also confirmed for the event are 23 speakers with over 30 different presentations over two days, all designed to provide further knowledge and assistance. In addition, the NDIA will present a series of free seminars about the current opportunities under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Entry is free for attendees of all ages if they pre-register via the event website. If attendees are unable to access the online registration prior they will be able to do so at the event.

http://careexpo.com.au/community

*For sponsor information, contact Courtney Stephens on 0447 268 038 or Bob Carroll on 0419 028 002.

AUSTRALIA is likely to improve its expertise and methods in tropical medicine through improved investments in research through the Federal Government’s Hot North program.

In early 2018, 13 medical researchers and projects tackling critical health issues across northern Australia received $6 million in new funding through the Hot North program, which is led by the Menzies School of Health Research.

“These issues include vector-borne and emerging infectious diseases, particularly malaria, and skin health, chronic disease, anti-microbial resistance and respiratory health,” Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said. 

Mr Canavan said the first Hot North  research grants and fellowships went to researchers from the Menzies School of Health Research, Telethon Kids Institute, James Cook University and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

“These 13 new research projects add to more than 20 others already underway into health problems such as malaria, pneumonia, the spread of respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, diabetes and rheumatic heart disease in the Northern Territory and in nearby countries,” Mr Canavan said.

“Hot North is helping to build Australia’s reputation as a global leader in tropical medicine and to create a thriving community of researchers in the north who will make a real difference to the health of Australians and our regional neighbours into the future.

“This research is identifying emerging medical threats within the region and build local capacity to address them.”

Mr Canavan said innovation and research were keys to enhancing the north’s competitiveness.

“As well as building our research capacity in areas like tropical health and biosecurity, we are supporting researchers to commercialise new ideas, treatments and therapies, and to partner with international researchers and companies,” Mr Canavan said.

“Through initiatives like the CRC for Developing Northern Australia, we are also helping northern-based businesses and industry collaborate with researchers to generate new ideas and innovation that leverages the north’s strengths and address its challenges.”

Established in 2017, the Hot North program will run until 2020, and brings eight of Australia’s leading medical research institutions together to focus on Northern Australia and the South East Pacific.

About 25 percent of the Hot North support goes to Australia’s neighbours in the South East Pacific, supporting two medical research hubs in Malaysia and Indonesia, and a number of Australian researchers are collaborating with local health professionals.

Hot North  is also running professional teaching workshops in remote locations in the north, such as Katherine, Broome and the Torres Strait, so that northern tropical medicine experts and local health practitioners can share knowledge and ideas.

www.northernaustralia.gov.au/research

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