New funding to develop one-of-a-kind biomedical device

24 April 2018
New government funding will help one of the University of Sydney's key industry partners significantly progress the commercialisation of a one-of-a-kind innovation developed by our biomedical engineering researchers.
Professor Hala Zreiqat standing in her laboratory.

Professor Hala Zreiqat.

MTPConnect – the Australian Government’s Medical Technology, Biotechnology, and Pharmaceutical Industry Growth Centre – and the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, recently announced that the University’s partner Allegra Orthopaedics was awarded a grant of $891,500 as one of the first cohort of the government’s $35 million BioMedTech Horizons program.

This grant is a significant milestone in the partnership between the University of Sydney and Allegra, who have been successfully collaborating on research and development activities since 2013.

The grant funds will contribute directly to progressing the commercialisation of Allegra’s fully-synthetic spinal cage device by providing the necessary funding required for preclinical studies. This unique innovation works to regenerate bone under spinal load conditions and be completely resorbed by the body, leaving it and the intervertebral space free of foreign materials.

The device is 3D-printed from a synthetic bone bioceramic (Sr-HT-Gahnite) invented by the University of Sydney’s pioneering biomaterials and tissue engineer Professor Hala Zreiqat and exclusively licensed to Allegra.

The synthetic bone possesses the mechanical strength required for load-bearing conditions, bioactivity needed for outstanding bone regeneration, and resorbability that reduces the risk of rejection and infection – all in a customisable structure. No bone graft is required as the device material induces bone graft.

Allegra will work closely with the University of Sydney and other project collaborators – the University of Wollongong, Boron Molecular and Sabre Medical – to pilot manufacturing of the device.

“This device has the potential to positively affect the quality of life of a huge number of people in Australia and beyond, and I look forward to supporting Allegra in its activities to help bring this product to market,” Professor Zreiqat said.

In a statement, Allegra CEO Jenny Swain said the project was selected from more than 200 proposals submitted for the BioMedTech Horizons program.

“We are very honoured to be one of the successful recipients of this grant. Our project was selected based on the recommendation of a diverse panel of high-calibre experts in the sector with research, clinical and commercialisation expertise. This grant is significant as it will allow Allegra to increase the resources and scale of our product development efforts,” she said.

Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, said in a statement: “Our researchers are innovators and this investment will speed up the journey from idea to reality. These technologies have the potential to create better health outcomes for Australians, while driving investment and strengthening our economy. All Australians benefit from investment in health and medical research.”

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence said this project was an excellent example of researchers and industry working together to transform research into real-world solutions.

“This achievement bodes well not only for research innovation at the University of Sydney but also for Australia’s health and medical sector more widely,” he said.

In a statement, Sue MacLeman, Managing Director and CEO of MTPConnect, said the first investments from the BioMedTech Horizons program were set to fuel ongoing innovation in Australia, in line with MTPConnect’s priorities for growth of the medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.

“Australia is an internationally recognised hub of health innovation, but it has been acknowledged that more work needs to be done in providing support at the pre-clinical and clinical stages of development, to assist in attracting private capital during early stages. MTPConnect is dedicated to working with the sector to ensure growth in collaboration between research and industry, to drive greater commercialisation,” she said.

“The BioMedTech Horizons program is set to address barriers of funding to support viable, new health biological and medical technologies to reach proof-of-concept, clinical trials and beyond, in line with our vision to advance the vibrant sector.”

The BioMedTech Horizons program is being delivered as a part of the Australian Government’s $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund, which aims to transform health and medical research to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to health system sustainability through targeted strategic investment.

Other successful projects funded by the BioMedTech Horizons program include a genome profiling platform to enable precision cancer medicine, a wireless Brain-Machine Interface suitable for treating neurological disorders, and microwearables for precision medicine.

Professor Zreiqat is a biomedical engineer within the Faculty of Engineering and a member of the University of Sydney Nano Institute.

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