Monash to lead Australian revolution in next generation heart devices

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Monash University is to lead a transdisciplinary consortium to develop and commercialise a suite of revolutionary and life-changing implantable cardiac devices that, for the first time, will offer longer-term solutions for all types of debilitating heart failure.

Health Minister Mark Butler has announced that the Monash-led Artificial Heart Frontiers Program, based at the Monash Alfred Baker Centre for Cardiovascular Research at The Alfred, has been awarded a $50 million grant from the Medical Research Future Fund.

Together, these highly durable devices could reduce deaths from heart failure and establish Australia as a world leader in the clinical trial, development, and local manufacture of cardiac medical technology.

The devices comprise a wholly new miniature device, the Mini-Pump, implanted inside the hearts of patients with no other option for treating their heart failure symptoms. It also includes a new type of Left Ventricle Assist Device (LVAD) implanted next to a natural heart to help it pump, and the Australia-US-based BiVACOR’s Total Artificial Heart (TAH) that fully replaces a natural heart.

“The Artificial Heart Frontiers Program underlines Monash’s commitment to purpose-driven research and innovation to deliver tangible and significant outcomes,” said Monash University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Sharon Pickering.

“An MRFF grant of this scale recognises the strength of Monash’s world-leading cardiac and engineering research, and our commitment to working with partners in research, industry, government and the community to address global challenges.”

The MRFF funding will support future clinical trials at The Alfred in Melbourne and St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney.

“Heart failure is a chronic progressive condition in which patients suffer from debilitating symptoms including persistent breathlessness and fatigue, that frequently require hospitalisation at great cost to a patient’s quality of life and the health system,” said project co-lead and director of cardiology at The Alfred, Professor David Kaye.

“The average survival of a heart failure patient is comparable to some cancers at just five years, and is even less for patients with advanced heart failure, who are the people our devices will most benefit,” said Professor Kaye, who also leads the Monash Alfred Baker Centre for Cardiovascular Research.

“By providing for the first time an automatic physiological response, these devices will significantly improve the quality of life of patients, allowing them to complete standard daily activities without shortness of breath,” said Professor Kaye

“Central to the Frontiers Program is the creation of a complete cardiac device ecosystem in Australia encompassing research, clinical trials, commercialisation and the development of new manufacturing capabilities,” said project co-lead Associate Professor Shaun Gregory from Monash University’s Faculty of Engineering.

BiVACOR founder and the Australian designer of the TAH, Dr Daniel Timms, said the consortium was a unique opportunity to bring together life-changing innovation and product development under the strong governance and support of Australia’s pre-eminent research institutions.

“The Frontiers Project brings together an unrivalled team of world-renowned clinicians and engineers with the resources of leading universities and hospitals to focus on bettering the lives of people living with heart failure and creating a long-term, vibrant industry here in Australia,” said Dr Timms said.

“This project shows the power of research to foster and connect innovation across academic disciplines, organisations and industries to make a profound real-world impact,” said Professor Rebekah Brown, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Senior Vice-President at Monash University.