Lumina to house world-first medtech training centre for treating complex neurological conditions

NEWS - 01 Feb 2024

6 minute read

Renowned Gold Coast interventional neuroradiologists Dr Laetitia de Villiers and Dr Hal Rice, in partnership with industry leaders and the Queensland Government, have announced plans to open an Asia-Pacific hub for medtech development and surgical training at Lumina within the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP).

A shining star of the hub is the NeuTex Image-guided Therapy Surgical and Robotics Training Centre –a purpose-built clinical training centre that will attract specialist doctors from across the Asia-Pacific to train in the latest procedures to treat complex conditions like stroke, brain aneurysms, vascular, spinal and cardiac conditions. NeuTex will also undertake pioneering research and development (R&D) for new medical devices and technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and 3D-printed anatomical models.

Delivered in partnership with Northwest Healthcare Properties, the centre is already ‘up and running’ successfully as a pilot in a temporary location within Lumina, and will relocate to a permanent facility in the new, state-of-the-art RDX Lumina development by 2025.

The co-location with Griffith University and Gold Coast University Hospital supports the vision to grow the GCHKP’s medtech capabilities by ensuring ongoing research, development and collaboration with the world’s leading device manufacturers and researchers.

Dr de Villiers is excited about how the Precinct facilitates and embraces fast-changing medtech innovation to benefit the health of the region and make a significant impact on patients suffering life-threatening, urgent conditions.

Dr Laetitia de Villiers is a leading interventional neuroradiologist who pioneers cutting-edge treatments for patients with complex conditions of the brain and spine.

Dr de Villiers is a globally renowned clinician-researcher who provides cutting-edge treatments for stroke and neurovascular conditions (conditions that affect the blood supply in the brain or spinal cord) for patients on the Gold Coast. She is also an Associate Professor at Bond University School of Medicine and is involved in teaching medical students, allied health professionals, radiology trainees and other medical specialists from Australia and overseas.

As a clinician, Dr de Villiers together with her colleague Dr Hal Rice has established the Gold Coast University Hospital Interventional Neuroradiology Service as an internationally recognised leading centre for providing advanced, research-based treatment for patients with severe and life-threatening conditions such as brain aneurysms and stroke.

Innovative medical technologies, such as advances in imaging, enable Dr de Villiers to successfully treat patients with previously untreatable or life-threatening conditions.

Dr de Villiers explained how the field of interventional neuroradiology required sophisticated ‘imaging guidance’, highly sophisticated X-ray imaging technology and 3D images so that doctors can locate and treat even minute blood vessels within the brain. The imaging technology provides a detailed map of the brain and guidance (like a highly specialised brain GPS), that enables doctors to navigate to complex and tiny arteries within the patient during treatment.

“Medtech as an innovation industry is extremely important to us,” Dr de Villiers said. In recent years, new technology has evolved within diagnostic and interventional neuroradiology and delivered many patient benefits, including better health outcomes and fewer complications.

“Over the years, medtech has progressed hugely. These days our imaging equipment emits a very low radiation dose and we can see so much more detail. Our Angiography Imaging Suite allows us to see in millimetres – we can see tiny little arteries and very small detail in high resolution. On top of it, there’s a lot of advanced software that’s built in to help model and plan our patients’ treatment,” she said.

“We often treat patients with very dangerous, life-threatening conditions. In the past, patients would need to have major surgery to have these conditions treated. Some of them were not treatable at all. But now with advances in imaging technology, we can treat these complex conditions.”

– Dr Laetitia de Villiers

Partnerships with the medtech industry, as well as GCHKP hospitals and universities, are key to connecting the health, research and technologies for innovative new healthcare treatments.

Dr de Villiers said there is an important collaboration between medicine and medtech companies coming together, working out what is needed, conducting the research and the engineering to devise new solutions that support better patient outcomes.

The NeuTex Image-guided Therapy Surgical and Robotics Training Centre has partnered with global medical leader Philips, who have provided the centre with their Azurion Biplane System, a leading imaging platform for minimally invasive interventional procedures.

Dr de Villiers and her team are also partnering with global medtech companies including Stryker, Medtronic, and Microvention, as well as Griffith University researchers at ADaPT who create pioneering 3D-printed brain aneurysm models, and the Gold Coast Private Hospital.

“Interventional neuroradiology is an ever-developing field and there is always new technology coming out. Many of the conditions we treat are very urgent, and there’s always something new on the horizon, which enables us to be able to better treat patients with less invasive treatments. It is very exciting,” she said.

The NeuTex centre has reserved its space in the new RDX Lumina development within Lumina, the Queensland Governments 9.5-hectare commercial cluster, dedicated to growing life sciences, health, and technology-related businesses, ensuring a state-of-the-art, purpose-built space for clinicians, designers and researchers to train and collaborate.

The NeuTex centre will be moving into the RDX Lumina development, a state-of-the-art $154 million research centre focusing on health, research, and development excellence, that began construction in May 2023. It is being developed by Northwest Healthcare Properties in collaboration with Economic Development Queensland.

The eight-level health and innovation facility will be a world-class hub for life sciences, research and technological advancements – the ideal permanent location for the Neutex centre.

One of the significant advantages of establishing NeuTex within Lumina instead of a hospital is that it can serve as a dedicated training and research facility outside the pressures of a clinical environment, without losing any realism. RDX will also features a bridge link into Gold Coast Private Hospital, the only building in the Lumina precinct to provide clinical connectivity.

As Dr de Villiers explained, “To date we have run workshops with visiting clinicians across Australia, New Zealand and APAC, to train to learn new devices or new ways to treat patients. These have been conducted in our clinical lab at the Gold Coast University Hospital. But the issue in a clinical setting is that if a patient needs to be treated urgently, we must stop the training workshops halfway through.”

“We decided we needed a dedicated facility, not only for training, but also for research, that doesn’t impact clinical care. That is how we developed our vision for the NeuTex centre.”

“It is different from other training centres across the world because it is absolutely state-of-the-art. We’ve exactly replicated the operating theatre – a complete replica, with the highest-tech equipment available, thanks to our partnership with Philips.”

– Dr Laetitia de Villiers

Dr de Villiers currently conducts training workshops (in the temporary location) without interrupting a normal clinical day and has space for professionals to do hands-on practice and training. The permanent facility within RDX Lumina will also cater for live-streaming in a lecture theatre, so local and overseas clinicians can watch a patient’s treatment in real-time. The 3D-printing technology enables NeuTex to print an exact copy of a patient’s anatomy or an exact aneurysm as a lifelike replica for simulation training.

The unique benefits of the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct location will continue to drive the NeuTex centre’s success.

Dr de Villiers has seen successful results with the NeuTex centre pilot and credits the replica theatre, as well as the many benefits of a Precinct location, with driving the positive feedback.

“Being located within the Precinct, even in a temporary location, has been hugely beneficial. We have visibility for our work, and we can collaborate across disciplines, such as software developers and bioengineering designers. We’re close to the university and two hospitals – it is so easy to collaborate, and to know what is going on, bringing us closer together and out of our ‘silos’.”

“Being able to be in the same physical space and collaborate breeds ideas and innovation. You can even bump into someone in a lift or a coffee shop and spark a research conversation!”

“And of course, it’s the beautiful Gold Coast, so physicians from overseas love coming here as well.”

Lumina – the home of life sciences innovation in Queensland

The Northwest Healthcare Properties RDX Lumina building is currently under construction and is located within Lumina.  Economic Development Queensland (EDQ), as master developer of Lumina plays a pivotal role in bringing this visionary project to life.

Economic Development Queensland’s investment in Lumina’s infrastructure is fuelling co-location opportunities, enabling healthcare services, HealthTech, and health-related industry stakeholders to connect with academics, researchers, clinicians, and patients.

Lumina sits within the wider 200-hectare Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct, which is backed by $5 billion in health, education, transport and residential infrastructure. Anchored by two hospitals (Gold Coast University Hospital and Gold Coast Private Hospital) and Griffith University, the area is home to 15,000 workers, including 1,000 researchers, 20,000 students, 2,500 residents, and 50 SMEs and tech companies. The Precinct is now in a rapid growth stage as more developments near completion from 2024 onwards.

RDX Lumina offers 12,000 sqm of space for lease and features a proposed bridge link to Gold Coast Private Hospital. The building will cater for partial and whole floor uses with tenancies ranging from 100 sqm to 2,000 sqm.

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