Leading bioengineer joins Sydney

5 August 2019
Research focused on improving the lives of patients with cardiovascular disease

Dr Steven Wise is a talented bioengineer whose research aims to develop medical devices to provide better treatment options for people with cardiovascular disease. We chat to him about his career and recent move to the University of Sydney.

Dr Steven Wise

What is your professional background and how did you come to the University? 

I finished my PhD in biochemistry at the University of Sydney in 2006, before joining a new translational initiative started by  Professor Anthony Weiss and Associate Professor Martin Ng.  Since 2009, I have worked at the Heart Research Institute developing a tissue engineering program for the construction of devices and implants for vascular repair. Having built a very strong research foundation, when the opportunity came up to join the School of Medical Sciences and continue my research at the Charles Perkins Centre, I was thrilled.  

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Having started off in basic science research, if you had asked me 12 years ago where my dream career path would lead me, this is it. It’s so exciting to work for one of the world’s top research and teaching universities.   

Tell me a bit about your research area and how you developed an interest in this area?

My research aims to develop platform biomaterials with improved efficacy, specialising in cardiovascular applications such as stents and synthetic vascular grafts. My interest in this area stemmed from many years of working with clinicians, specifically cardiologist Associate Professor Martin Ng who has experienced inefficiencies with existing medical devices when trying to treat his patients.

My group has identified some pressing needs, including for effective small diameter synthetic grafts and more biocompatible stents to help people with cardiovascular disease. We have a goal to develop the next generation of these implants that will improve patient lives. We are building improved stents that heal better when implanted and lab-based blood vessels made of silk amongst other projects. Recent work has focused on the role of inflammation in the host reaction to implanted materials and the generation of bioactive surfaces to modulate this response. I’m passionate about focusing on research that will help people and have real world impact. 

You have recently had funding success, what does this mean for your work?

Recent funding success, including NHMRC project, NHMRC development and ARC Linkage and an industry partnership, Innovative Manufacturing CRC, has provided us with over $3.5 million dollars. This has really lifted the profile of our work and allowed us to retain some extremely talented postdocs in the group and of course, has opened new opportunities such as working in the Charles Perkins Centre. Over the next few years we are fortunate to have the opportunity to continue the pre-clinical testing required to see if our materials can ultimately be translated to human applications.

How do you feel about joining the University?

It is something I have long aspired to. Having worked in medical research for over 10 years, coming to work at the University and being located in the Charles Perkins Centre is really a career high, and gives me the chance to contribute to both research and teaching. Our research is translational because we work closely with other researchers and clinicians, so it is exciting to be able to easily access collaborators from across the University including clinical schools, hospitals, research institutes and groups.

In practise, what this means is that we are now a short walk from Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) hospital, allowing us to further benefit from the strong relationship we have with the Sydney Local Health District. A great example of a benefit from joining the University is, just this morning, Associate Professor Ng was able come by for a meeting with the team in between seeing his patients. This is not easily achievable for busy clinicians. This gives us the chance to hear firsthand from clinicians at the bedside about what is needed to help patients.

Dr Steven Wise has recently been awarded the prestigious National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Marshall and Warren Award. The Marshall and Warren Award recognises the most innovative research project that could change the way an illness or disease is diagnosed, treated or prevented, from among all the applications nominated for this award in each year’s NHMRC Project Grants.