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Implantable Medical Devices


The ability to attach functional proteins, antibodies and enzymes to surfaces underpins the development of the next generation of implantable medical devices, biosensors and protein arrays for disease screening and enzyme based chemical processing. This project brings together a multidisciplinary team of physicists, biochemists, biologists and medical practitioners to solve fundamental problems associated with the development of such devices and processes. Two Australian companies are directly involved and poised to bring the new developments to market.


Professor Marcela Bilek.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



The demand for implantable medical devices is growing rapidly due to the low availability of transplantable human donor organs coupled with our aging population. This year we have commenced a partnership with two dynamic companies working in this arena. Cochlear is the international leader in auditory implants to for the hearing impaired whilst Spinecel is a supplier of new technologies for bone contacting prosthetic implants, such as replacement hip and knee joints. Both companies are interested in developing surfaces that encourage the in growth and subsequent integration of oesteoblasts (or bone cells) and neurons (nerve cells) to dramatically improve the effectiveness of their products. Cardiologists at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital are interested in surfaces capable of reducing the incidence of life threatening thrombosis induced by blood contacting implants through protein mediated cellular interactions. These partners are attracted by our newly patented surfaces for linker free covalent attachment of bioactive protein. This project will explore the use of proteins known to recruit cells of the desired type coupled to our protein binding surfaces to promote integration into the relevant biosystem. Techniques that will be used to characterise the surfaces and their protein attachment capability include AFM, surface profilometry, x-ray photoemission spectroscopy, secondary neutral mass spectroscopy, infra-red spectroscopy, contact angle measurement and electron microscopy. In-vitro assays to assess cell attachment and spreading on the protein covered surfaces will be conducted together with colleagues at the School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, while in-vivo assessments required for medical industry approval will be conducted by the industry partners. Surface morphology of the surfaces will be investigated as a parameter to optimise the cell-surface interactions.

Additional information

This research field is very large and rapidly evolving so there are a number of projects available for PhD, Masters and Honours students. Students involved in the work will learn how to work in an interdisciplinary team. They will become proficient in a number of state of the art techniques for the analysis of surfaces and/or biomolecules and cells. Some of the projects will involve direct interaction with industry. Top up scholarships are available for students with sufficiently high grades or other relevant experience. Projects which involve collaborations with industry partners will require the student to sign an IP assignment agreement.
HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 709

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