The partnership, between global medtech leader Siemens Healthineers and multi-award-winning University of Sydney researcher Dr Tess Reynolds, is pioneering a novel technology that is set to revolutionise interventional imaging (imaging during surgery) by mitigating movement – such as that of a beating heart during cardiac surgery, by synchronising imaging of the heart with real-time ECG data to adjust for the heart’s movement – resulting in detailed, motion-free, accurate 3D imaging to guide surgeons as they work. This capability will reduce risk, duration and the need for secondary surgeries, vastly improving patient experience and outcomes.
Dr Reynolds explains that current imaging technologies, while highly sophisticated in many other ways, are unable to seamlessly correct for the movement of working organs during surgery.
“An organ like the heart, for example, is always moving,” she says, “so relying on static imaging during a surgical procedure on the heart is not always helpful. We need accurate imaging that takes into account the constant motion of the heart as it pumps blood through the body.”
To this end, medical imaging specialist Siemens Healthineers has partnered with Dr Reynolds to provide access to its state-of-the-art clinical robotic imaging system known as the ARTIS pheno, making the University of Sydney the only external site in the world with access to this equipment.
Siemens Healthineers’ Collaborations Manager for the project Penny Vos explains that this allows Dr Reynolds to explore potential applications of the device beyond those already in clinical use.
Tess’s research has the potential to improve current products and create a foundation for new products. She has the freedom to explore without the restrictions of needing to consider whether her experimentation will have commercial benefits. Of course, it’s often this ‘trying something new’ attitude that leads to serendipitous Eureka moments which have benefits never imagined.
An initial four-year partnership between the two parties has been so successful that they are now in discussions to extend it for another term. Their work has also attracted keen international interest, recently expanding to include researchers and clinicians from Johns Hopkins University in the US. In the process the project has been elevated to a level that neither partner could have achieved independently, bringing additional benefits to each along the way.
Dr Reynolds, who earlier this month was awarded the prestigious Macquarie University Eureka Prize 2022 for Outstanding Early Career Researcher, says her progress on this project could not have occurred without her industry partner: “As an academic researcher, my work is built on testing ideas. Having access to this equipment from Siemens Healthineers has allowed us to become world leaders in this space. Being able to take our ideas and actually try them out – not just theoretically or in simulations, but by seeing how they work on the actual equipment – means we can test and prove our hypotheses.”
For their part, Siemens Healthineers has found the collaboration such a productive and rewarding experience that it is now actively seeking to partner with other researchers at the University as well as seeking to extend this current arrangement. “The entirely positive experience we’ve had with the Uni of Sydney team is one of the main reasons we’re planning to extend our collaboration,” Vos says.
Siemens Healthineers’ Head of Collaborations and Research for ANZ, Dr Kieran O’Brien, adds: “Our collaboration project with Tess laid the foundations of our industry–academic engagement with the University of Sydney, and together we now are looking to build and grow on our partnership by widening our collaborations to other University of Sydney researchers and initiatives.”
Professor Robyn Ward, Executive Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney, firmly believes that industry–researcher partnerships like this one are essential to the advancement of medicine and health care.
Impacts in medicine and health require partnerships. These partnerships are found in communities, our government and industry. We are so pleased to see this partnership with Siemens Healthineers as exemplary of the role of industry in delivering shared objectives in education and research.
The University’s Vice-President (External Engagement), Kirsten Andrews, agrees, adding: “It’s so exciting to see these kinds of partnerships evolve. As the University has now committed to in its ten-year Sydney in 2032 Strategy, we want to be valued as outstanding partners, because we believe that is where our teaching and research can have the greatest impact. Each agreement like this one shows us how it can be done, and how others can build similar partnerships, to address the greatest challenges before us all.”
But it is Dr Reynolds herself who perhaps most succinctly sums up the key reason for industry and academic researchers to combine their respective strengths in collaborations like this one, observing: “I think it’s the only way to get things done – to really change patients’ lives.”