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$2.2m in funding announced for health and medical research and innovation recipients

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Innovation and Medical Research Minister Stephen Dawson has announced a $2.2 million package to support various ground-breaking programs in Western Australia’s health and medical research and innovation sectors.

Nine new projects and initiatives have been supported by the Future Health Research and Innovation (FHRI) Fund, and are based on recommendations by the FHRI Fund Advisory Council.

The funding is distributed through the inaugural Innovation Fellowships Program, the Clinician Research Fellowships Program and the Australian Clinical Entrepreneur Program.

Under the Clinician Research Fellowships $1.4 million has been allocated to support four recipients. The Clinician Research Fellowships Program provides support to WA Health employees for high-quality research projects.

$600,000 has been made under the inaugural Innovation Fellowships 2022 Program to support five health and medical-related innovation projects. This funding is used to identify and nurture the development of early-stage innovations. These range from a potential new approach to preventing childhood ear infections to addressing resistance to antibiotics.

In addition to the two fellowship programs, the FHRI Fund has also supported the participation of 21 WA clinicians in the first cohort of the Australian Clinical Entrepreneur Program (AusCEP) through a $200,000 contribution.

Mr Dawson said WA is home to some of the most innovative health and medical research and innovation programs.

“All of these successful recipients are to be commended for what they have achieved and the amazing work they do to contribute to our burgeoning local medical research and technology sector that has the potential to improve lives around the world,” he said.

The Innovation Fellowship recipients will look at new pathways to combat challenges in our health system. We are proud to be funding and supporting these programs to explore alternative solutions to care and treat more Western Australians.

Stephen Dawson, Innovation and Medical Research Minister

“Congratulations to this year’s four Clinician Research Fellowship recipients, whose research projects have the potential to translate to evidence-based practice and quality health outcomes.

“I would also like to acknowledge and commend the 21 successful AusCEP applicants, which include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and mental health professionals. I wish you good luck and good fortune on your entrepreneur program.”

Further information on the programs (from the WA government website…)

Innovation Fellowships 2022

Successful applicants within the Innovation Fellowships 2022 Program include:

VeinTech Pty Ltd – Mr Nikhilesh Bappoo

VeinTech is a WA medical device designed to reduce the failure rate associated with cannulation (the insertion of a thin tube into a person’s vein). VeinTech Pty Ltd will develop VeinWave which will use unique hardware and artificial intelligence to find the right vein, first time, every time and ensures cannulation is performed quickly, safely and easily.

Respiratory tissue repair – Dr Thomas Iosifidis, Telethon Kids Institute

Research has shown defective airway repair response to injury is associated with recurrence of asthma symptoms. This fellowship will investigate an innovative treatment which is expected to not only enhance airway repair but is also anticipated to reduce asthma exacerbations and hospitalisation.

Epilepsy screening from home – Mr Phillip Lawrence, St John of God Midland Public Hospital

An outpatient video evaluation program internet device to detect and monitor epilepsy and associated behavioural events is underway at Royal Perth Hospital. Currently, it is not possible to have virtual access to the device in the patient’s home. This proposal will enable virtual access to the device in the patient’s home, allowing real-time data collection and the ability for the clinician to communicate with the patient directly.

Childhood ear infections – Dr Kelly Martinovich, Telethon Kids Institute

Most children experience middle ear infections requiring antibiotics by their second birthday, and up to 25 per cent will suffer repeat infections with hearing loss and require surgical intervention. Telethon Kids Institute research has discovered a beneficial bacterium that when applied in the nose can prevent middle ear infections in an animal model. This project is seeking to translate this discovery into a product to benefit children with middle ear infections.

Antibiotic resistance – A/Professor Anthony Kicic, Telethon Kids Institute

Patients affected by antimicrobial resistant bacteria can be treated quickly and effectively with phage therapy. While a small-scale production facility of phages exists in Sydney, NSW it cannot meet the needs of patients in WA within a practical timeframe. Therefore, the project proposes a ‘WA-Phage Bioreactor Facility’ where bacteriophages will be manufactured at scale locally.

Clinician Research Fellowships 2022

Under the Clinician Research Fellowships the recipients will be able to continue to perform their clinical duties while carrying out their research.

The Clinician Research Fellowships Program is a joint initiative of the FHRI Fund and the Raine Medical Research Foundation.

The four Clinician Research Fellowship activities include:

SNAP-PY Trial – Dr Anita Campbell, Perth Children’s Hospital

Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections are the leading cause of bloodstream infection in Australian children, with more than 450 babies and children admitted every year to hospital, of whom 20 will die, and high rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The Staph aureus Network Adaptive Platform trial in Paediatrics and Youth (SNAP-PY) will discover the best antibiotic treatments for children and adolescents. This will ensure sick children recover quickly and spend less time in hospital, to provide improved quality of life and prevent premature deaths.

Promoting gut health – Dr Kristina Rueter, Perth Children’s Hospital

In Australia 10% of infants suffer from food allergy with an ever-present risk of life-threatening severe reactions. Hence, finding prevention strategies is vital. Environmental changes including modern low-fibre-diets have contributed to changes in the gut bacteria that have been associated with allergies. This world first project is to determine whether promoting gut health with prebiotic fibres during pregnancy will provide a novel, low cost and easy to apply allergy prevention strategy.

Chronic pain and mental health – Dr Robert Schutze, Royal Perth Hospital

We know that around one in five Australians live with chronic pain, which is often distressing and disabling. Yet access to whole-person health care is limited. Blended pain care involves giving people with pain a mix of individual telehealth sessions with a psychologist or other health professional, and tailored online learning resources. This project aims to use digital technologies to bring effective mental health care to more people in pain, including those in regional and remote areas. 

Predicting treatment response for Melanoma – Dr Lydia Warburton, Fiona Stanley Hospital

Major gains have been made in melanoma, translating to improved survival. However, 50 per cent of patients have no sustained benefit from treatment. There are currently no tests that can identify patients who will respond to treatment. This project will investigate methods to predict response to treatment and study mechanisms of resistance, to improve the accuracy of tests which will provide critical information about the tumour to improve outcomes, reduce health costs and patient toxicity.

Australian Clinical Entrepreneur Program (AusCEP)

WA has achieved great success in this program which was available to medical and non-medical clinicians based in WA, NSW and VIC, with 21 WA clinicians including from a diverse range of providers of health services, such as Royal Perth Hospital, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Silver Chain and NursePrac Australia, being invited to participate in this program.

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