Supporting people with low vision to live their life the way they choose

MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellow and CueSleeve co-founder Dr Chris McCarthy is working to make it easier for people living with low vision and neurocognitive disorders to do what they want and love to do.

It can be challenging for people living with low vision to identify and move towards objects in their everyday life – whether at home or getting around on public transport, dining and more. For people living with neurocognitive disorders such as traumatic brain injury, movement to interact with their world can also be a significant challenge.

“Through this technology we aim to provide a low-cost assistive aid for people with low vision, and an accessible therapeutic aid for rehabilitation of hand-eye coordination in people living with low vision and neurocognitive disorders,” says Chris.

“The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship will provide both the financial support and mentorship we need to develop and commercialise CueSleeve.”

The first prototype is the result of years of hard work from Chris’ PhD student and co-founder Deepa Prabhu, and the CueSleeve team including Mehedi Hasan, Dr Clare MacMahon (La Trobe University) and Dr Lisa Wise.

“CueSleeve is a wearable and flexible sleeve that computes and then delivers vibration-based cues to the user’s forearm skin, guiding them towards objects that they are interested in looking at more closely, touching or picking up,” says Chris.

CueSleeve detects and tracks the objects with sensors embedded within the sleeve and a head-mounted camera using advanced computer vision.

A Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at Swinburne University of Technology, Chris has worked at the forefront of prosthetic vision with Bionic Vision Australia and in developing a robotic aid for paediatric rehabilitation – now deployed at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowships are valued at $70,000 each and will provide Chris with tailored mentoring from commercialisation experts, a $20,000 stipend and access to the MedTech Actuator™ – Asia Pacific’s MedTech, BioTech and HealthTech accelerator.

“I am excited to learn about entrepreneurship and business from the experts, and to bring this project, already years in the making, out of the lab and into the hands of people we believe it can truly benefit.”

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship is a partnership between the Menzies Foundation and the MedTech Actuator, supported by the Menzies Foundation as part of their Entrepreneurship in Science mission.

Sign up to our newsletter below and connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn to follow Chris’ journey – and stay in the loop on how to be a part of the 2022 MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship.

Researchers join inaugural MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship

Congratulations to Dr Chris McCarthy and Associate Professor Jeremy Crook on their appointment as inaugural MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellows.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowships are valued at $70,000 each and will provide Chris and Jeremy with tailored mentoring from commercialisation experts, a $20,000 stipend and access to the MedTech Actuator™.

The fellowship unlocks the potential of Australia’s world-class research and researchers, particularly in the areas of human health, medicine, and biotechnology. Through the fellowship, researchers will fuse their background with new commercial expertise from industry’s leading minds to improve and save lives.

Chris is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at Swinburne University of Technology, an Honorary Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute and has worked at the forefront of pioneering technology. This includes Bionic Vision Australia and a robotic aid for paediatric rehabilitation – now deployed at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. Jeremy is an Associate Professor and Principal Fellow at the University of Wollongong and Chief Investigator and Deputy Theme Leader of Synthetic Biosystems in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science.

As a fellow Chris will advance CueSleeve, a haptic training device for improving eye-hand coordination in individuals with visual and neuro-cognitive disorder. Jeremy will be advancing a wireless electroceutical device for neural repair.

“As an academic researcher, I love solving problems but get most satisfaction in seeing theoretical solutions translate to real outcomes. This fellowship will give me the mentorship, focus and structured support I need to truly realise this for CueSleeve,” says Chris.

Jeremy says that he is excited to learn what it takes to bring a medical technology innovation to market.

“The fellowship will be important for achieving my aspirations to translate what began as merely an idea conceived by myself and team member Dr Eva Tomaskovic-Crook into a clinically useful medical technology,” says Jeremy.

Chris and Jeremy will initially embark on six months of mentorship, working with experts within the MedTech Actuator and along the commercialisation pipeline.

During the second six-month phase, Chris and Jeremy will take part in a tailored version of our flagship, industry-led accelerator. They will learn how to navigate key commercialisation milestones, from developing regulatory and reimbursement strategies to product development, approaching investors, and building a team.

Importantly, they’ll learn with – and from – other MedTech, HealthTech and BioTech founders from across Asia Pacific.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship is a partnership between the Menzies Foundation and the MedTech Actuator, supported by the Menzies Foundation as part of their Entrepreneurship in Science mission.

Sign up to our newsletter below and connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn to follow Chris and Jeremy’s journey – and stay in the loop on how to be a part of the 2022 MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship.

Ventora Medical closes investment round during COVID19.

MedTech Actuator startup Ventora Medical has successfully closed its angel investment round in the midst of the COVID19 global pandemic. The new investment will make it possible for Ventora Medical to advance their technology that helps premature babies to breathe.

Backed by the Walker Group and MedTech ActuatorTM partner Artesian, this latest capital raise has attracted coverage in The Australian Business Review, the Herald Sun and AusBiz StartUp Daily, and brings their total funding to date to $1.25M.

The new round will allow the team to deliver crucial work including a preclinical study in late 2020 with the Medical Device Partnering Program, a clinical pilot study in early 2021 and further development of an alpha prototype.

The breathing support that clinicians give to babies born prematurely plays a critical role in their survival, length of stay in neonatal intensive care and long-term health. Ventora Medical’s continuous airway pressure monitoring device will help clinicians to administer this vital breathing support with greater precision.

Non-invasive breathing support methods are designed to help babies breathe by keeping their lungs inflated. However, due to unaccounted for leaks in the system, there is no way of knowing the actual pressure being delivered to the lungs. Clinicians must therefore rely on clinical signs and symptoms when setting the pressure, which can often be delayed and confusing.

Ventora Medical’s device will make this process easier, improve the accuracy of breathing support, reduce the incidence and impact of further breathing complications, and save hospitals time and money by reducing the patient’s length of stay.

To learn more about Ventora Medical and follow their journey visit www.ventoramedical.com.

MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarships now open

Applications are now open for 2021 MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarships – each valued at $10,000. Ten junior researchers will each receive tailored education, access to exclusive industry events and a $1,000 stipend to support them in exploring their commercialisation goals.

Scholarships are available to high-potential junior health, medical or biotechnology scientists and researchers who may be undertaking their honours, masters or PhD – or even starting to work in their chosen field.

The three-month scholarship will run from February to April 2021 and can be undertaken remotely while studying and working – requiring a small time commitment in month one and two and attendance at a three day immersion intensive during month three.

Scholarship recipients will experience unparalleled networking opportunities and gain insights into the possibilities in a career that fuses science, research, and entrepreneurship.

Scholarship recipients will complete their immersion intensive and online learning alongside Asia Pacific’s best emerging entrepreneurs competing in the MedTech Actuator Origin international pitch competition. In the final month of the scholarship, recipients will see the entrepreneurs pitch in MedTech Actuator Origin Rapid Fire Rounds and Gala Finals and network with the largest names in global MedTech corporates, clinicians, ecosystem VIPs and investors.

Beyond these unique insights and networking opportunities, the immersion intensive and online course will provide scholarship recipients with a strong foundation in commercialisation. Topics will include intellectual property, pitching, startup 101, finance for beginners, business modelling, design thinking, path-to-market, and market analysis.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship will support the scientific community’s commercialisation capacity by facilitating knowledge transfer from industry to junior scientists and researchers.

If you are a junior scientist or researcher – or you know one – you can find out more about the scholarship and apply here.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship is supported by the Menzies Foundation as part of their Entrepreneurship in Science mission in partnership with the MedTech Actuator.

Apply now

Navi Medical Technologies awarded NHMRC grant

Congratulations to MedTech Actuator alumnus Navi Medical Technologies, awarded an NHMRC Development Grant worth almost $900,000. 

The NHMRC’s Development Grant scheme helps take research to the proof-of-concept stage, a critical step on the pathway to successful commercialisation. Each Development Grant application was assessed by up to 10 peer reviewers: five scientific reviewers and five commercial reviewers. This speaks volumes for the quality of Navi’s application and the value of the work they are doing to improve the care of vulnerable neonates.

In partnership with the University of Melbourne, The Royal Women’s Hospital and The Royal Children’s Hospital the funds will be used to expand Navi’s research into central line management in older children.

The NHMRC is one of the ten largest funders of health research in the world. It only invests in the highest quality health and medical research and the best researchers and supports the translation of scientific discoveries to benefit communities in Australia and around the world.

Congratulations to (L-R) Christiane Theda, Brad Bergmann, Shing Yue Sheung, Mubin Yousuf, Wei Sue and Alexander Newton.

In the last three months Navi have also commenced their first-in-human research at the Royal Women’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit, using their prototype on newborns for the first time. They have received a Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund grant to expand research in the Royal Women’s Hospital to adjacent newborn procedures, and won funding from the US FDA-funded National Capital Consortium for Pediatric Device Innovation.

Find out more about Navi and their NHMRC grant success.

Story adapted from content courtesy of Lance Chia GAICD, Liverpool Innovation Precinct.

Baby bottle that self-sterilises on the go

Equity crowdfunding expression of interest is now open on Birchal for Form-i-Baby’s world-first self-sterilising baby bottle. Pronto Bottle will make bottle feeding safer for babies, save precious time for parents and keep millions of bottles out of landfill every year.

The durable bottle uses the latest ultraviolet light wave technology to self-sterilise at home and on the go, freeing up around an hour every day on bottle preparation and reducing the bottles a family needs down to just one.

Pronto Bottle is incredibly easy to use. All it takes is rinsing and filling with water, then pressing a button and the bottle and water is sterilised all at once – ready to add formula, or empty and add breastmilk, to feed the baby.

Form-i-Baby was founded by Melbourne-based entrepreneur Shannon Gilleland who realised there was a real need for a better alternative through her own experience as a parent and through follow-on market research.

“I was sitting in the back of my car trying to prepare a bottle for my daughter, juggling a thermos of hot water to heat it, and the formula containers to fill it,” recalls Shannon.

“It occurred to me that it was ridiculous that the process hasn’t changed in 20 years.”

Shannon realised that while we have more technology to help us with some processes at home, nothing has actually reduced the number of tasks.

“Plus, as I became more eco-conscious, finding a way to reduce the influx of plastic into my life that came with having a baby, and especially as a bottle feeding parent, became a higher priority,” says Shannon.

With her initial idea in mind, Shannon interviewed and surveyed over 100 parents to find out how they travelled with their baby. She discovered that their biggest pain points were around the amount of time parents spent washing, sterilising, and preparing bottles.

Shannon went about developing a product that solved this problem to save parents time while at home and travelling.

“At the same time I was able to develop a product that provided a safer bottle feeding solution for babies. Pronto Bottle is sterilised directly before a baby feeds from it, rather than leaving a pre-sterilised bottle sitting around on a benchtop or in a nappy bag for up to 24-hours risking bacterial and viral exposure to the baby when they finally do feed from it.”

Shannon joined the MedTech Actuator in 2019 to gain personal mentoring and technical knowledge on the MedTech industry in areas including manufacturing, marketing, strategy, IP, commercialisation, as well as support on fundraising and investor relationships.

The 15-month, industry-led, venture-backed program aggressively funds and accelerates medical, health and biological technology startups, working alongside venture partner Artesian to support startups on their journey.

Since joining the program, Shannon has patented Pronto Bottle, raised funds, sourced board members, solidified commercialisation and business strategies, and developed her business network.

Shannon says that the bespoke industry masterclasses, and personal mentorship throughout and after the program have supported her startup journey.

“The intense masterclasses from professionals who have worked in MedTech, BioTech and HealthTech industries, and this unique skill set, would be very difficult to source elsewhere,” says Shannon.

“The close mentorship provides honest feedback on your direction, skills, progress, expertise and weaknesses, ensuring you never get to walk around with your ‘startup blinkers’ on.”

“The immense network of industry contacts that you can tap into is something you wouldn’t be able to access unless you were in the industry yourself for 20+ years, and even then, it wouldn’t be as diverse.”

Shannon says that depending what stage startups are at, the MedTech Actuator’s fundraising opportunities can provide the initial funds required to get through some of the riskiest first phases of product and company development.

Find out more about Form-i-Baby’s Birchal equity crowdfunding campaign at www.birchal.com/company/prontobottle.

To stay up-to-date on the latest news from MedTech Actuator startups, subscribe to our newsletter at www.medtechactuator.com and connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

CSF Warning: Always consider the general CSF risk warning and offer document before investing.

MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowships now open

Applications are now open for 2021 MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowships – each valued at $70,000. Two high-potential medical or scientific researchers will each receive tailored mentoring from commercialisation experts, a $20,000 stipend and access to the MedTech Actuator™.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship is designed to unlock the potential of Australia’s world-class research and researchers.

“We know that there is great work being done by researchers in Australia – particularly in the areas of human health and medicine. We want to support this talent by giving researchers access to commercialisation expertise so that they can share their work with the people who need it most – patients and clinicians,” says MedTech Actuator CEO, Dr Buzz Palmer.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship will support the scientific community’s commercialisation capacity by facilitating knowledge transfer from industry to researchers.

“The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship will provide high-potential scientists with a grounding in the elements of commercialisation, but most importantly it will provide access to our dense network of partners – a network that spans hospitals, product development firms, multinational MedTech corporations and investors,” says Dr Palmer.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship can be undertaken while working. Initially, fellows will embark on 6 months of mentorship – working with experts within the MedTech Actuator and along the commercialisation pipeline.

During the second 6-month phase, fellows will take part in a tailored version of our flagship, industry-led accelerator. They’ll learn how to navigate key milestones in the commercialisation journey, from developing regulatory and reimbursement strategies to product development, approaching investors and building a team. Importantly, they’ll learn with – and from – other MedTech, HealthTech and BioTech founders from across Asia Pacific.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship is a partnership between the Menzies Foundation and the MedTech Actuator. “We are passionate about investing in our country’s future science leaders and giving them the runway to ensure that their research has an impact in the world.  We look forward to sharing their entrepreneurial journey,” Menzies Foundation CEO Liz Gillies said.

To be eligible for the Fellowship, researchers must be working in the areas of health, medical or biotechnology research and have approval from the employing institution to be absent 2-3 days per month for 6 months (July 2021 – December 2021).

If you are a career researcher – or you know one – you can find out more about the Fellowship and apply here.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellowship is supported by the Menzies Foundation as part of their Entrepreneurship in Science mission in partnership with the MedTech Actuator.

Apply now

Wearable bionic ear to offer accessible hearing transformation.

Australian startup Augmented Bionics has secured $650,000 in a round led by UK-based VC fund IP Group and included MedTech Actuator™ VC partner Artesian.

This new support will help to advance their non-invasive bionic ear for people with severe to profound hearing loss.

Every year nearly 1.5 million adults worldwide are diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss – the vast majority of whom receive no hearing help or only have access to technology that does not meet their needs. But Augmented Bionics is working to make it possible for individuals around the world to access non-surgical, safer, more affordable, and easy to use hearing support.

Fitted by a hearing audiologist, the non-invasive bionic ear is worn just like headphones and aims to activate the auditory nerve through magnetic waves from outside the body. This makes it possible for individuals with profound to severe hearing loss to hear and comprehend speech, and to hear sounds from their environment. This is currently only possible through costly surgical alternatives that just a handful of the world’s population with severe to profound hearing loss can access and afford.

Augmented Bionics CEO, Viraj Agnihotri’s first elevator pitch for the technology took place back in 2016, quite literally, in an elevator.

“After speaking to all the hearing clinics across Brisbane, I knew there was a big need for a non-surgical alternative. But I needed 3D models of the human head and simulation and computation software to design the device,” recalls Viraj.

“I didn’t have access to that or know how to use them, so I started hustling for someone in the engineering faculty to help me out and was recommended to a professor. He was a very busy person, and I literally found him in an elevator: we were on level one, I had until level six to convince him.”

The chance encounter connected Viraj with valuable new contacts and resources that would help bring his innovation closer to reality.

Since then, Viraj has established a strong team to advance the technology. Viraj has a background in mechatronics engineering, bioengineering, business, and innovation. His cofounders include Mahanthesh Chandra, an electrical engineer, and Nicholas Jabbour, a biomedical scientist.

The team joined the MedTech Actuator™ in 2018, a 15-month, industry-led, venture-backed program that aggressively funds and accelerates medical, health and biological technology startups alongside venture partner Artesian.

Since joining the MedTech Actuator™ the team have demonstrated their prototype’s effectiveness, received ethical clearance for human research to commence proof-of-concept testing with commercially available magnetic stimulation devices, and secured $650,000 in a round led by IP Group to continue advancing their technology.

“The MedTech Actuator’s support on all aspects of medical device commercialisation and access to investors through pitches have been very beneficial,” says Viraj.

“I would recommend the MedTech Actuator to every MedTech, HealthTech and BioTech entrepreneur that I come across.”

To learn more about Augmented Bionics and follow their journey go to www.augmentedbionics.com.

To stay up-to-date on the latest news from MedTech Actuator™ startups, subscribe to our newsletter at www.medtechactuator.com and connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

First-in-human trial of new MedTech to support critically ill newborns.

MedTech Actuator startup Navi Medical Technologies passed a major milestone recently when the clinical prototype of the Neonav ECG Tip Location System was used on patients for the first time.

The Neonav is being developed to deliver life-saving drugs and nutrients to critically ill newborns. The commencement of the ‘feasibility’ phase of the observational study will see the Neonav clinical prototype be used to record intravascular ECG data from 50 patients undergoing umbilical venous catheter procedures.

The prototype has already shown some promising early results and is expected to detect some potential line migration which will contribute to patient safety.

“This is such an exciting milestone for our whole team because it’s the first time a device we have designed and built is being used on real patients,” says Mubin Yousef, Navi Founder & Chief Technology Officer.

“We are already starting to see a great interest from our colleagues in the device and we just initiated the next stage of our study. Everybody can see the positive impact this device will have and that’s a great feeling,” adds A/Prof Christiane Theda, Navi Founder & Chief Medical Officer.

Find out more about Navi and follow their journey at www.navitechnologies.com.

Preventing heart attacks with MedTech innovation.

Australian startup Nirtek is developing a medical technology that will help prevent heart attacks, the leading cause of death worldwide.

Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of the arteries due to the build-up of fatty deposits called plaques. This is the most common cause of heart disease. If a coronary plaque is unstable, it can rupture and cause occlusion of the artery, resulting in a heart attack and too often, death. To date though, there has been no reliable way to detect which atherosclerotic plaque is unstable and in need of immediate treatment.

Leading interventional cardiologist and Deputy Director of the Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute, Professor Karlheinz Peter and his colleagues wanted to solve this deadly problem and began researching a new and reliable way to detect unstable plaques.

The research led to the development of Nirtek’s patented technology, known as Near InfraRed Auto Fluorescence (NIRAF). NIRAF detects unstable coronary plaques so that cardiologists can intervene and treat them before they lead to heart attacks.

“This technology was developed in direct response to a critical unmet need in the global healthcare market,” says Matthew Hoskin, Nirtek Director and CEO.

“There is no more compelling clinical need than to identify coronary artery disease that is vulnerable to plaque rupture, thrombosis and occlusion of a coronary artery” says Matthew.

“Heart attack caused by unstable plaques is the number one killer in Australia and the world. Giving cardiologists a tool to quickly identify which plaques and which patients are at high risk will allow them to intervene and treat.”

Matthew says that the technology itself has been a challenge, but one the team has risen to with determination and dedication.

“Cardiologists, scientists, optical physicists, and biomedical engineers across several leading Melbourne hospitals, research institutes and universities, have contributed to the development of an incredible device that will provide cardiologists with critical information about plaque stability” says Matthew.

“Importantly, the device does this within the existing workflows of the cardiac catheterisation laboratory.”

With a device in development that has the potential for such significant clinical impact, the team is eager to complete and where possible, accelerate the process of development, manufacturing, trial, regulatory approval, and commercialisation of this lifesaving technology.

“That is what drives us, getting the product through all the stages necessary to launch it into the clinic where it can start benefiting patients,” says Matthew.

Nirtek joined the MedTech Actuator in 2019 as an opportunity to be surrounded with people who spend all day, every day working on MedTech startups.

“That includes the MedTech Actuator staff themselves who have deep knowledge of what helps a startup to succeed, and what traps and pitfalls can be avoided,” says Matthew.

“But it’s also the many other startups with passionate and knowledgeable founders, all of whom become part of your network through the MedTech Actuator. That instant plug-in to knowledge is like expanding your own team far more rapidly than would normally be possible.”

During their time with the MedTech Actuator, Nirtek developed a business plan for product development and commercialisation, designed and built the first product prototype, progressed the patent application, and created the company entity itself, Nirtek Pty Ltd. This was supported by access to experts with specific skills and experience in establishing startups and getting them investment-ready.

“There are so many areas of strategy and planning that need to be taken into account when forming and launching a MedTech company. The MedTech Actuator is a valuable source of advice and guidance along the way,” says Matthew.

“It’s a chance to refine but also stress-test your plans as you put your business together.”

Find out more about Nirtek and follow their journey at www.nirtek.com.au.

To stay up-to-date on the latest news from MedTech Actuator startups, subscribe to our newsletter at www.medtechactuator.com and connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.