The team behind the BioPen, which can be used in surgery to repair damaged cartilage, has welcomed being named a finalist in the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.
Team leader Professor Gordon Wallace said being named a finalist in the Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research Prize category was ‘’special’’ for this talented team of scientists, engineers and clinicians.
‘’But what’s really important is the BioPen is becoming a reality and all the time invested by many many people over quite a number of years is starting to bare dividend,’’ Prof Wallace said.
‘’To deliver practical outcomes like that requires a lot of dedication and innovation from a lot of individuals.’’
The BioPen team is made up of researches from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and the University of Melbourne Department of Surgery.
The BioPen will have a significant impact on those suffering from the debilitating and painful condition.Professor Gordon Wallace
ACES director Prof Wallace said fellow team leader Professor Peter Choong from St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne suggested developing a handheld 3D bio-printer to push towards a ‘’translatable clinical application’’ for regenerating cartilages.
‘’Our team got the challenge of designing that hand held 3D bio-printer and also adding other features to it,’’ he said.
‘’And, those features actually enabled us to create a pen where we could not only deliver scaffold, we could deliver the scaffold plus the patient's own stem cells in a simple device directly into that defect where we want to repair the cartilage.
‘’We’ve been working on this basic project for probably five or six years and in the last year or so it has really come together to have that practical, usable device to be trialled on sheep...that work was published and benefits of using that handheld 3D BioPen have been clearly demonstrated.’’
Prof Wallace said the very sporting nation of Australia has a lot of knee injuries.
‘’A lot of those knee injuries occur in younger people. So to be able to effectively regenerate damaged cartilage really solves an immediate problem but what it also does is it thwarts the development of osteoarthritis in those joints,’’ he said.
‘’The BioPen will have a significant impact on those suffering from the debilitating and painful condition.’’
Dr Claudia Di Bella, Dr Stephen Beirne, Dr Cathal O’Connell and Dr Zhilian Yue are also part of the BioPen team.
This is the second Australian Museum Eureka Prize nomination for Prof Wallace who was nominated and won the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science in 2016.