New Neo-Bionica facility to fast-track medical treatments

Image credit: The University of Melbourne

The launch of Australia’s first medical device development and manufacturing facility in Melbourne is set to fast-track new treatments for people with conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, hearing loss, stroke and diabetes. 

The new facility, called Neo-Bionica, is a joint venture between the Bionics Institute and the University of Melbourne. It is a highly specialised laboratory, purpose-built with the latest cleanroom technology, cutting edge robotic equipment, enhanced 3D printing and precision engineering tools needed to develop prototypes and manufacture medical devices for clinical trials. 

Bionics Institute CEO Robert Klupacs said that providing researchers and engineers with the capability to build clinical trial grade medical devices in Australia will increase the speed from initial concept to clinical application. 

“Our Institute is renowned worldwide for developing life changing medical devices such as the cochlear implant, Minder™ epileptic seizure monitoring device and a unique nerve stimulation technique for the treatment of ulcerative colitis – an inflammatory bowel disease. And yet, we currently depend on companies overseas to build prototypes of the latest medical devices for use in clinical trials,” Klupacs said. 

“The opening of Neo-Bionica in July will completely change how we translate Australian innovation, enabling home grown inventions to be manufactured rapidly in Australia for the benefit of patients throughout the world. We estimate that Neo-Bionica will enable the translation from research to clinic of at least 20-30 new medical devices over the next 10 years.” 

University of Melbourne Executive Director of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation Ken Jefferd said Neo-Bionica will grow Melbourne’s reputation as a global biomedical powerhouse and boost the Australian economy. 

“Not only will patients reap the benefits of ground-breaking medical devices more quickly, Neo-Bionica will attract international collaborators, generate employment, strengthen Australia’s export capability and boost the economy,” Jefferd said. 

“Research impact through collaboration is a critical priority for the University and Neo-Bionica is a stellar example of our vision turning into reality.” 

University of Melbourne Professor Mark Cook, Chair of Medicine and Director of Neurology at St Vincent’s Hospital, where Neo-Bionica is located, said the launch of the new facility will enable clinicians, scientists, engineers and industry partners to collaborate closely in the quest to find solutions for people with hard-to-treat diseases, like epilepsy. 

“The ability to walk from my consulting rooms to the Neo-Bionica facility and talk to the engineers developing prototypes for my patients to test will have a huge impact on the speed of developing new treatments and the future of medicine in Australia,” Cook said. 

The Bionics Institute and the University of Melbourne are seeking $25 million in philanthropic, investment and government funding for employment, manufacturing capacity and equipment at Neo-Bionica.

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