The unique gel can be injected into the body to help regenerate damaged tissue such as bones and cartilage. After only five years of development, this patented university-researched biomedical technology will go to human trials.
'Trimph' (Temperature Responsive Injectable Modifiable Peptide Hydrogel) has been developed by Dr Ali Fathi from the University of Sydney and his team in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. It was the result of his cutting-edge doctoral research with Professor Fariba Dehghani in injectable hydrogels which laid the foundations for Trimph.
The dynamic properties of this biomaterial are what make it revolutionary in injury treatment and prevention. At room temperature, Trimph remains a liquid that can be injected into the affected area. Once at body temperature, the gel changes its elasticity to provide the scaffolding required to aid the repair of damaged tissue. The gel then gradually dissolves into non-toxic components and is absorbed into the body. By utilising this injectable biomaterial, medical professionals can greatly decrease the need for open surgery and the associated risks when treating tissue damage.
In Trimph's Sydney-based facilities Dr Fathi has now proven scalability, having validated production to provide enough product for almost 200 clinical uses per batch. Dr Fathi's research team have completed animal trials and are now a month into human trials. The early signs are very positive.
"We have shown that the Trimph is very easy to use, clinicians can save hours in the theatres by using this novel technique. Additionally, preliminary clinical results have shown that we can significantly accelerate the healing time in the body. In the end, both clinicians and patients will be satisfied with the outcome," said Dr Fathi.
Dr Fathi has worked hard to transition this university research project into a successful start-up venture, having secured the license from the University of Sydney's Commercial Development and Industry Partnerships (CDIP) to use, commercialise and to further develop the intellectual property in a wide range of medical fields.
"CDIP supported me even before I realised it; they understood the start-up nature of Trimph and have been outstandingly encouraging. I really want to get this message out – that this commercial arm of the University of Sydney is there to support entrepreneurs. It was because of their initial support that I could incorporate the company, raise capital from private and public sources and form this business that now it employs five smart and highly skilled individuals," said Dr Fathi.
In addition to funding from the state and federal governments, Dr Fathi's work has been lauded by Innovation and Science Australia chair Bill Ferris who told the ABC in a recent interview that Trimph " is the sort of start-up that can affect health outcomes here and abroad.*
In December 2016 Dr Fathi received a Nobel Award for Local Technology Start-Ups at a Nobel Gala event in Sydney hosted by Cicada Innovations, one of Australia's leading incubators of emerging tech start-ups. The first of its kind in the southern hemisphere, the Nobel Gala replicated the world-renowned Nobel Award experience at Australian Technology Park. In addition to the start-up founders, guests included Federal and State Ministers, Chief Executive Officers from industry and university stakeholders.
"This night shows the university–industry culture has been changed and now we can have policy makers, academics, CEOs from multinational corporates and founders of start-ups under one roof, talking about innovation, advanced technologies and manufacturing to form the future of the country," said Dr Fathi.
Dr Fathi completed his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering in Iran. After completing his studies, he worked for the Ford Motor Company's Dagenham Plant in London as a junior mechanical engineer. Dr Fathi believed that the routine nature of this job wasn't satisfying him and so he moved to Australia to complete a Master of Professional Engineering at the University of Sydney. It was here where Dr Fathi decided to pursue the PhD which ultimately led to his ground-breaking work in polymer hydrogels.
"We have shown that Trimph is well-tolerated in the body and it can help the regeneration of bone," Dr Fathi states. "It is just the beginning; to be able to register the product for public use we have a long and challenging way to go," said Dr Fathi.
Dr Fathi founded Trimph with fellow alum Terence Abrams who completed his Bachelor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Sydney. In true start-up fashion, the pair have now transformed an old warehouse into a clean room production facility in the heart of Alexandria – something that is common in San Francisco but virtually unheard of here in Australia. From here Dr Fathi will press on with getting Trimph gel to market, perhaps continuing the same fast pace of success he has already achieved in reaching human trials.
*Source: <Cicada Innovations inaugural Nobel Gala, ABC News Breakfast BF> viewed 17 May 2017
The School of Civil Engineering welcomes Professor Brian Uy as the new Head School, having held leadership positions at the University of NSW, the University of Western Sydney and the University of Wollongong.