The Liberal National Government will funding 10 highly promising research projects that aim to tackle medical conditions such as epilepsy, dementia, antibiotic resistance, cerebral palsy and stroke.
The projects, funded under Stage One of the bold Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Frontiers initiative, will receive funding of up to $1 million each over one year to develop detailed planning for their cutting-edge research projects.
Each of the selected 10, like Transform Emergency Stroke Care project, will be able to apply for Frontiers Stage Two with the opportunity to secure up to $50 million or more to realise their ground-breaking research plan.
The projects include:
- $999,956 for a world first research project to harness next generation brain imaging technology for diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. Epilepsy is the most common serious neurological disorder of children, and one of the major neurological conditions affecting the Australian population. More than 200,000 Australians currently live with epilepsy. For people with epilepsy, finding the right medication is a matter of ‘try it and see. For one third of patients, no medication is successful and often surgery is also problematic. New advanced brain imaging methods can help. The Precision Medicine for Epilepsy project will use advanced neuroimaging with artificial-intelligence prediction to transform management of epilepsy, reducing clinical uncertainty and leading to earlier decisions and better selection of effective treatments. Professor Jackson and the Florey will collaborate with Australian and international leaders in epilepsy, neuropsychological testing and genetic testing in working groups to dramatically improve epilepsy care and patient experiences.
- $924,100 for research to develop a new interface between the brain and a machine, to help people regain eyesight, movement or other nerve functions. The Cortical Frontiers: Commercialising Brain Machine Interfaces project is headed by Professor Arthur Lowery, Professor of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering at Monash University. The device was originally developed to restore vision, but can be repurposed to provide stimulation of many neural functions. The Cortical Frontiers project will work with doctors and patients to identify the two most promising applications of the technology for development.
- $998,731 for research towards a national database of antibiotic resistance, to allow resistant strains to be traced, isolated and treated.. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) represents the greatest health challenge facing humanity. Without a solution, it is forecast to cause 50 million deaths a year worldwide by 2050. The Trace, Track and Tackle project will use sensor technologies, data, knowledge, and artificial intelligence to develop a nationwide system, called OUTBREAK, help in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria. OUTBREAK will allow researchers to study how resistant bacteria spread and how to treat them. Its goal is to protect Australians from AMR infections, and reduce hospital admissions and health care costs. The project is headed by Professor Steven Djordjevic of the Proteomics Core Facility at the University of Technology Sydney.
- $964,700 for research into large scale use of an Australian method for controlling the spread of Zika virus, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases. The Innovative Public Health Program Against Mosquito-Borne Diseases is headed by Professor Scott O’Neill, of the Institute of Vector-Borne Disease at Monash University. Professor O’Neill and his team pioneered the use of a naturally occurring bacterium called Wolbachia to reduce the ability of mosquitoes to transmit certain viruses. The method has been successfully tested in small field trials and a larger field site in Townsville in Queensland
- $895,346 for multidisciplinary research to develop new technologies to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health. The EVE-M — Enhancing the Vaginal Environment and Microbiome—Initiative is headed by Professor Gilda Tachedjian of the Burnet Institute. The EVE-M initiative will develop and commercialise a series of pioneering technologies to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health. It will use innovative materials to harness beneficial genital microbiota to potentially deliver other drugs, including contraceptives. The ultimate goal is to reduce the health burden and cost of bacterial vaginosis and sexually transmitted infections in Australia and around the world. As well as the Burnet Institute, the EVE-M Initiative includes Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds Campus, and Family Planning NSW.
- $960,000 for intensive research into new 4D diagnostic technology to allow accurate assessment of lung function in people of all ages, including the very young and old. The Australian Lung Health Initiative aims to deliver an original technology that is rapid, easy to use and safe, with less than 10 per cent of the radiation used by x-rays. Patients would not have to remain still or follow instructions, making it suitable for infants, children, older people and the very sick who are difficult to assess with current technology.The five-year project will build on Australian company 4Dx Limited’s patented XV Technology™, a four-dimensional lung function imaging analysis, and new lose-dose imaging science. Professor Andreas Fouras is founder, chairman, and chief executive of 4Dx.The Australian Lung Health Initiative was formed to bring together world-leading Australian scientists, engineers, manufacturers and medical researchers to revolutionise lung screening and treatment.
- $1 million for a world first Australian research project using the latest genome editing technology to rapidly detect and identify infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance. The c-FIND: CRISPR Frontier Infection Diagnostics to Detect Infection project is led by Professor Marc Pellegrini of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. There is an urgent, unmet need around the world for rapid and accurate identification of infectious disease in patients, to combat antimicrobial resistance and mitigate the devastating consequences of epidemics and pandemics. Breakthrough CRISPR technology (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) provides scientists with the prospect of new, accurate and fast point-of-care diagnostics. Work by the c-FIND team has the potential to dramatically change the way infectious diseases are diagnosed, providing clinically relevant answers in real time, and speeding time to treatment.
- $1 million for a world first Australian research project using therapeutic ultrasound to treat brain disorders, including dementia. The Therapeutic Ultrasound for the Treatment of Brain Disorders project is headed by Professor Juergen Goetz, Director of the Centre for Ageing Dementia Research at the University of Queensland’s (UQ) Queensland Brain Institute. Last year, around 450,000 Australians were living with dementia. Without a medical breakthrough, this number is expected to rise to more than a million by 2028. The multidisciplinary therapeutic ultrasound program will build on the UQ’s successful use of ultrasound to improve the effectiveness of drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. It will aim to deliver an innovative technological platform combining ultrasound and essential auxiliary technology to effectively treat Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders.
- $747,596 for a world first Australian research project to test a new biomedical technology to deliver spinal cord stimulation as a treatment for cerebral palsy. The Cerebral Palsy Treatment by Closed Loop Electrical Stimulation project is headed by Professor John Parker, founder and chief executive officer of Saluda Medical Pty Ltd and Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of New South Wales. Cerebral palsy is an incurable disease characterised by spasticity. There is no current cure although various treatments can provide some relief from symptoms. Currently more than 34,000 Australians are affected by cerebral palsy. Every 15 hours, a child is born with cerebral palsy in Australia, making it the most common form of childhood physical disability. Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord may have therapeutic benefits, but has not been adopted in clinical practice due to the limitations of current implants. Saluda Medical is a medical device company at the cutting edge of bioelectronics medicines. It has developed a closed loop feedback technology that measures neural activity controlling muscles and applies electrical stimulation to the spinal cord that self-adjusts to remain within the therapeutic range.
- $1 million to identified the development of new technologies to care for stroke victims before they reach hospital as one of the first funded projects. The multidisciplinary research alliance on pre-hospital care for stroke is headed by Professor Geoffrey Donnan of the University of Melbourne and includes stroke experts, engineers, computer scientists, paramedics, healthcare providers and non-government organisations. The Alliance will spend a year creating a detailed research plan to develop new, lightweight brain imaging equipment to transform diagnosis and care for stroke victims in the so-called ‘golden hour’— the first hour after a stroke occurs. Coupled with real-time data transmission capability, this will allow images to be sent from specialised road and air ambulances to stroke specialists in major hospitals. More than 56,000 Australians have strokes every year and around half a million people are living with the effects of stroke.
Frontiers is an initiative under the $1.3 billion National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan And the 2019-20 Budget MRFF 10 year Investment Plan extends Frontiers to 2027-28 and increases funding from $240 million to a total allocation of $570 million.
Frontiers provides endless possibilities for Australia’s talented researchers.
These projects have the potential to save and protect millions of lives.
This investment has the potential to transform healthcare and stimulate growth in the Australian medical technologies, biomedical and pharmaceutical sector, a vital part of the innovation economy.
The Coalition Government’s strong economic management ensures we continue to invest record amounts of funding into ground-breaking medical research, Medicare, mental health, life-saving medicines, and hospitals.
All applications were assessed by an International Scientific Peer Review Panel to ensure those recommended for funding would deliver new to world ideas and opportunities.