Precinct collaboration star ‘BioSpine’ research receives major funding boost
NEWS - 31 Oct 2023
Estimated 4 minute read
The world-first BioSpine research program is on track to revolutionise the way spinal cord injuries are treated globally, thanks to a recent multi-million-dollar funding boost allowing the team to move into its next phase of development and clinical trials.
The additional $3.8 million support from the Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC) will help fund ‘BioSpine 2.0’ – the next phase in bringing BioSpine’s medtech solution closer to commercialisation and patient impact.
It’s an exciting time for the Gold Coast-based BioSpine project team – in addition to the funding boost, they are also nearing publication of their successful efficacy study results (stay tuned for their release soon).
A cross-disciplinary, multi-organisation team since its inception, the BioSpine project is a shining example of the collaborative benefit within innovation precincts such as the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP) – and the type of opportunities that can present to organisations moving into new developments rising within Lumina.
BioSpine aims to restore patient sensation, function, and movement in Spinal Cord Injury patients – for the first time in history.
BioSpine’s collaborative research program aims to help people with a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) regain some of their motor and sensory function. To do this, a multidisciplinary team is required, and BioSpine’s team includes clinicians, researchers, and engineers across the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct.
The project is led by Griffith University’s Dr Claudio Pizzolato from the School of Health Sciences and Social Work (SHS) and the Griffith Centre for Biomedical and Rehabilitation Engineering (GCORE), with Griffith’s Senior Lecturer Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM (pictured below), who is a doctor at the Gold Coast University Hospital.
Dr Pizzolato and his team aim to partially recover SCI patient sensation, function, and movement, using a unique combination of electrical stimulation of muscles, brain-computer interfaces to activate thought-control, immersive virtual reality, rehabilitation technology, and drug therapy.
It is the first time in history that this integrated approach has been attempted in SCI patients and the results will soon be released publicly via journal publication.
The success of BioSpine 1.0 has set the team up for the next stage of research and development.
BioSpine 1.0’s initial efficacy study evaluated the effectiveness of brain-computer interfaces integrated with intensive, highly repetitive, regular doses of machine-driven movement therapy and drug therapy for people with a SCI.
The BioSpine technology uses a ‘digital twin’ of the person with SCI to connect and work with physical rehabilitation equipment, including a motorised exercise bike and functional electrical stimulation, creating a personalised rehabilitation program. It also incorporates virtual reality to create an immersive environment with sensory feedback.
Click the link to watch a short video showcasing the integrated BioSpine technology, featuring Dr Pizzolato, Dr Palipana, and Professor David Loyd (Director of GCORE).
BioSpine 2.0 hopes to reach more SCI patients, and even transform the lives of patients with other neurological conditions, too.
Dr Palipana once explained that although improvements have been made in the survival of SCI, we have still never been able to repair spinal cord damage. According to Spinal Cord Australia, approximately 20,800 Australians are living with SCI and 350-400 people sustain a new SCI each year.
The funding boost will support the team’s next stage to move the BioSpine technology closer to clinical environments including hospitals, and to reach more patients. Gold Coast University Hospital clinical researchers will collaborate on the BioSpine 2.0.
Specifically, Dr Pizzolato said the next stage will involve testing the intervention on SCI patient volunteers, beginning in 2024.
“Essentially, the funding boost will enable the team to get BioSpine ready for translation, so people can access these life-changing methods outside of the university,” he said.
Excitingly, there is also potential to apply the technology to patients with neurological injuries such as a stroke or brain injury too – driving an even greater impact for more people within our community.
BioSpine’s continued success is supported by the benefits of being part of a collaborative innovation Precinct.
Dr Palipana believes the single most important requirement for innovation is the ability to foster and encourage ideas. He credits the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct, and Lumina within it, for providing the right environment and infrastructure to facilitate the exchange of big ideas between talented minds. “We have an environment here at Lumina where if we put a group of dreamers and innovators together, no idea is too big,” he said.
BioSpine’s research approach included collaboration with spinal cord injury patients, medical and allied health clinicians, researchers, and engineers from its onset. Specifically, BioSpine is a cross-disciplinary project across Griffith University including GCORE, Advanced Design and Prototyping Technologies Institute (ADaPT), School of Health Sciences and Social Work, School of Engineering and Built Environment, and Griffith Film School. It also involves overseas collaborators such as Harvard University and industry partners, such as Myriad Studios, a film special effects company that creates digital avatars and immersive environments for trial participants.
The innovation and clinical trials landscape in Queensland is growing exponentially, and Lumina offers the last available space within the Gold Coast Health & Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP).
For health and science businesses or research projects focused on innovation, locating within a specialised precinct such as the GCHKP can provide access to a community of resources and networks needed to thrive in a booming clinical trial environment. Lumina tenants conducting research and development are close to health leaders Gold Coast University Hospital, Griffith University, and the Gold Coast Private Hospital, as well as commercial partners, and the entrepreneurial hub Cohort Innovation Space. This has positioned Lumina and the GCHKP as a fast-emerging destination for global organisations within the Asia-Pacific region.
The Precinct leverages Australia’s excellent reputation and regulatory environment to deliver a competitive advantage, and its world-class facilities help attract top talent and expand research all from one location. Advanced technical laboratories for R&D will be available in many of the upcoming developments nearing completion over the next few years and will be a core focus of several future Lumina developments.
Now is the time for leaders in medtech, healthtech, and biotech to secure their space in upcoming developments within Lumina.
Three new state-of-the-art health and research-focused developments are underway that will specifically provide space for research and clinical trials – offering tenants both laboratory and purpose-built collaborative spaces, including RDX Lumina (NorthWest Healthcare Properties), the Gold Coast Life Sciences Centre (Niecon Developments) and North Star (Trilogy).
Spaces and whole floors are available for laboratory and research facilities along with medical and office suites, and the earlier a business can secure space, the more opportunity for bespoke design and customisation.
Incentives are also available – the GCHKP Investment Attraction Program includes a range of incentives and services that offer benefits such as lease rebates, tenancy rebates, and capital and R&D incentives. For more information about the available incentives including eligibility criteria, application process, and assessment, contact the GCHKP Project Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit gchkp.com.au