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Sensor technologies to help revolutionise medicine

A research project, which aims to revolutionise personalised medicine through wearable sensor technologies such as bracelets, will receive up to $10 million as the inaugural winner of The Australian National University (ANU) Grand Challenge Scheme.

The five-year project promises to help clinicians detect diseases in people much earlier than is currently possible, and better manage their conditions.

The multidisciplinary project beat several rival research bids as part of the $50 million ANU Grand Challenge Scheme, set up by Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt to help the University solve some of the biggest problems facing the world.

Schmidt congratulated the research team, which involves more than 60 researchers including immunologists, engineers, physicists, chemists and health services experts from across the University.

“This is an outstanding project that will help doctors treat disease earlier and more effectively with precision therapies,” Schmidt said.

The ANU Grand Challenge Scheme demonstrates just one way that ANU is having impact, bringing experts from across the University together to offer new perspectives on a major challenge confronting society.”

One of the lead researchers is engineer Associate Professor Antonio Tricoli.

“Using nanotechnology and electronics, we are on the verge of developing the next generation of wearable sensors,” said Tricoli from the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory at the ANU Research School of Engineering.

“This is a game changer. People will be able to collect essential information about their health, just by going about their normal daily activities such as brushing their teeth or taking a walk.

“This will enable us to get a holistic picture of their health and understand the development of diseases before they happen, better monitor the ones that exist already and manage them better.”

Co-lead researcher Professor Matthew Cook, an immunologist, said diagnosing chronic diseases earlier and treating them more effectively would be enormous progress.

“There’s been tremendous progress in medicine over the past 100 years, but we’re still left with this problem of chronic diseases that require long-term management,” said Cook from the Department of Immunology at The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) and the ANU Medical School.

“There’s going to be a huge gain from combining wearable sensor technology with genomics to understand the mechanism of disease better.”

Co-lead researcher Dr Jane Desborough, a health services expert, said patients and others involved in the treatment of disease would be part of the project.

The most important part of implementing this technology is that we work with patients, carers and their families, and with health services and policy makers, from the very beginning so that we can translate this knowledge into practice effectively,” said Desborough from the ANU Research School of Population Health.

The other project leaders are Dr Anne Bruestle and Professor Ted Maddess from JCSMR, Dr Hanna Suominen from the ANU Research School of Computer Science, Professor Dragomir Neshev from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering, and Associate Professor Christine Phillips from the ANU Medical School.

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