The three-year study, funded by the Estate of the late Olga Mabel Woolger, will trial the assistive technology as a cognitive training device to improve outcomes and delay the onset of dementia for people with Parkinson’s disease. The research project is led by Flinders University Rehabilitation Engineer David Hobbs and University of Adelaide neuroscientist Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino, in partnership with Parkinson’s South Australia.
The OrbIT system is a fun and easy to use computer gaming system designed to engage the player in targeted, cognitively challenging activities. It features a novel controller which does not require a strong grip or fine motor control. This makes it highly suitable for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, who may otherwise struggle to use traditional gaming consoles.
There are over 82, 000 Australians living with Parkinson’s today, making it the most common major movement disorder and second most prevalent neurodegenerative condition. There is currently no cure.
“Within 15 to 20 years, 80% of people with Parkinson’s will go on to develop dementia”, explains Dr Collins-Praino. “Using the OrbIT system as a cognitive training device may help to slow down and prevent this.”
OrbIT was originally developed for children with cerebral palsy and has also been trialled for people undergoing stroke rehabilitation. The current collaboration came about through a chance meeting when Dr Collins-Praino attended a presentation by OrbIT lead developer Mr Hobbs and suggested the potential for OrbIT to help people with Parkinson’s.
“Sometimes the best collaborations come about by chance”, says Dr Collins-Praino, who is looking forward to using OrbIT in a clinical setting. “It’s really exciting to have a potential tool that can make cognitive training accessible.”
The trials will take place through Parkinson’s SA’s new Brain x Body Fitness Studio, a studio which focuses on movement and flexibility, whilst also being a social hub for over 50’s. As well as traditional gym facilities, Brain x Body provides programs and assistive technologies which have been clinically proven to improve neuroplasticity,
Chief Executive Officer of Parkinson’s SA, Olivia Nassaris, has always been on the lookout for assistive technologies and was highly impressed by OrbIT when she first visited Mr Hobbs’ Flinders University laboratory last year. She describes OrbIT as the perfect project. “It happened completely organically. Dr Collins-Praino saw the potential for the benefits of OrbIT to be translated to Parkinson’s research and the collaboration has worked out perfectly between the three groups.”
“Assistive technology such as OrbIT improve quality of life by maximising independence and self-management”, says Ms Nassaris. This research trial will be an important step in improving the health outcomes for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
Source: University of Adelaide, Parkinson’s SA
Image: Lyn Paunovic (centre), who has Parkinson’s disease, holds the OrbIT game controller. Left to right: Lyn’s husband Tolley Paunovic, Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino, Lyn Paunovic, Olivia Nassaris and David Hobbs.
Featured image above: Artist’s impression of the UNSW-EcO cubesat in space. Credit: UNSW Australia
Three Australian research satellites – the first in 15 years – blasted off on Wednesday 19th April from Cape Canaveral and arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday. They will soon be deployed in orbit to explore the little-understood region above Earth known as the thermosphere.
The trio, two of them built at UNSW Australia, are part of an international QB50 mission, a swarm of 36 small satellites – known as ‘cubesats’ and weighing about 1.3 kg each – which will carry out the most extensive measurements ever undertaken of the thermosphere, a region between 200 and 380 km above Earth.
This poorly-studied and usually inaccessible zone of the atmosphere helps shield Earth from cosmic rays and solar radiation, and is vital for communications and weather formation.
Twenty-eight of the QB50 satellites, including the three Australian cubesats, were aboard the Atlas 5 rocket when it launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The three Australian satellites are UNSW-EC0, built by UNSW’s Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) which will study the atomic composition of the thermosphere along with new robust computer chips and GPS; INSPIRE-2, a project led by the University of Sydney and involving UNSW and the Australian National University which was also partly built at ACSER; and SuSAT, a joint project between by the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia.
“There have only been two before: Fedsat in 2002 and WRESAT in 1967. So we’ve got more hardware in space today than Australia’s had in its history.”
Sometime in May, the first 20 cubesats – including INSPIRE-2 and SUSat – will be deployed from the International Space Station, or ISS, via a Nanoracks launcher, a ‘cannon’ that will eject them at a height of 380 km (the same as the ISS), and they will drift down to a lower orbit where they can begin their measurements. UNSW-EC0 will be deployed with the remaining seven other cubesats around June 17.
Also aboard the Atlas 5 rocket is Biarri Point, a cubesat for defence applications testing carrying new GPS technology developed by UNSW’s ACSER and Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group. It is part of a four-nation defence project between Australia, the US, the UK and Canada that will see the launch of another two cubesats over the next year. The remaining eight QB50 cubesat will be launched separately into orbit by an Indian rocket later in May.
“This zone of the atmosphere is poorly understood and really hard to measure,” says Elias Aboutanios, project leader of the UNSW-EC0 cubesat and deputy director of ACSER.
“It’s where much of the ultraviolet and X-ray radiation from the Sun collides with Earth, influencing our weather, generating auroras and creating hazards that can affect power grids and communications.
“So it’s really important we learn a lot more about it. The QB50 cubesats will probably tell us more than we’ve ever known about the thermosphere,” he says.
“The data generated by the constellation will be unique in many ways and they will be used for many years by scientists around the world.”
Both the QB50 and Biarri projects show what Australia can do in the new age of cubesats, dubbed ‘Space 2.0’, that allows companies and researchers to develop new space applications and devices and launch them at much lower cost.
“It proves that, even with modest resources, Australians can be players in space industry and research,” says Joon Wayn Cheong, a research associate at UNSW’s School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications and technical lead of the UNSW-EC0 cubesat.
“UNSW-EC0 and INSPIRE-2 prove we can devise and build space-ready hardware which can tolerate the punishing strain of blast-off and the harsh conditions of space.”
Mark Hoffman, UNSW’s Dean of Engineering, agrees. “We used to think of space as a place only big-budget space agencies could play in. The advent of cheap and powerful cubesats has made space accessible as never before, and that’s going to be great for industry and research applications. I’m delighted to see UNSW playing a leading role in this emerging sector in Australia. “
Each QB50 cubesat carries instruments with its own engineering and scientific goals. UNSW-EC0, for example, has three other experiments: a robust computer chip designed to avoid crashing in the harsh radiation of space, as some satellites and space probes are forced to do when hit by cosmic rays; a space-borne GPS to enable satellites to cluster together in swarms; and test a super-reliable computer microkernel in the harsh radiation of space.
In addition, UNSW-EC0’s chassis is made entirely from 3D-printed thermoplastic, itself an experiment to test the reliability of using 3D-printing to manufacture satellites, making them cheaper and much more customisable.
This information was first shared by UNSW Australia on 19 April 2017. Read the original article here, or watch the video below.
As science and technology researchers, practitioners and enthusiasts, we feel very strongly that our community should think analytically and use scientific information to inform their decisions, as individuals and as a nation.
We hope our leaders in politics, business and in the media incorporate the lessons and findings of science and technology into their decision-making about health, energy, transport, land and marine use – and recognise the benefits of investing in great scientific breakthroughs and technological inventions.
But how do we ensure critical thinking is applied in decision-making? How do we incorporate and apply scientific findings and analysis in the formulation of policy, and encourage strong, strategic investment in research?
The only way is to become vocal and proactive advocates for STEM.
Scientists and technologists must see ourselves as not only experts in our field, but also as educators and ambassadors for our sector. Scientists are explicitly taught that our profession is based on logic; that it’s our job to present evidence and leave somebody else to apply it.
For people who’ve made a career of objectivity, stepping out of that mindset and into the murky world of politics and policy can be a challenge, but it’s a necessary one.
The planet is heading towards crises that can be solved by science – food and water security, climate change, health challenges, extreme weather events. It’s arguably never been more important for scientists and technologists to step outside our comfort zone and build relationships with the media, investors, and political leaders. We need to tell the stories of science and technology to solve the species-shaking challenges of our time.
A plethora of opportunities exist for STEM researchers and practitioners to improve and use their skills in communication, influence, marketing, business, and advocacy. As the peak body representing scientists and technologists, Science & Technology Australia hosts a variety of events to equip STEM professionals with the skills they need, while connecting them with the movers and shakers in those worlds.
Science meets Parliament is one of these valuable opportunities, and has been bringing people of STEM together with federal parliamentarians for 18 years. Others include Science meets Business and Science meets Policymakers.
We can provide the forum, but it’s up to STEM professionals to seize the opportunity by forging relationships with our nation’s leaders in politics, business and the media. We must ensure the voice of science is heard and heeded – not just on the day of an event, but every day.
Currently STEM enjoys rare bilateral political support; a National Innovation and Science Agenda; and a new Industry, Innovation and Science Minister, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, who has indicated his intention to continue to roll it out.
As we encounter our fourth science minister in three years, however, we cannot rest on our laurels and allow science and technology to slide down the list of priorities. Bigger challenges are also mounting, with the profession of science correspondent virtually dead in Australia and the international political culture favouring opinion and rhetoric over established fact and credibility.
Scientists and technologists must resist their natural tendency to humility, and proactively sort the nuggets of truth from the pan of silty half-truth. We must actively work to influence public debate by pushing evidence-based arguments into the media, and into the political discourse.
When our society starts assuming that we should make substantial and long-term investment in research; when the methods and findings of science and technology are routinely incorporated into shaping policy and making important decisions for the nation – we’ll consider our job to be well done.
Read next:Dr Maggie Evans-Galea, Executive Director of ATSE’s Industry Mentoring Network in STEM, paints a picture of Australia’s science and innovation future – one that requires a major cultural shift.
Spread the word:Help Australia become a collaborative nation! Share this piece on science and technology using the social media buttons below.
More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Digital Disruption Thought Leadership Series here.
Science has evolved over many centuries to become an integral part of modern society, underpinning our health, wealth generation and cultural fabric. This process has been distinguished by an implicit collaboration between science and business, government, and the wider community.
However, the integration of science with evidence-based policy has – in this century – often been wilfully disregarded by politicians in many countries, who either cherry-pick or completely ignore the science when it does not accord with their political agenda. Most recently in the United States, we have seen “alternative facts” supplant scientific and other evidence bases in the “post-fact” era.
While surveys continue to show that the vast majority of people still support and believe in the benefits of science, the politicisation of science has inevitably raised seeds of doubt, or polarised many people’s world view.
So it is important now, more than ever, to reinforce with politicians the value and respect for science in the creation of evidence-based policy.
In Australia, a key connection between science and politics is the annual “Science meets Parliament” (SmP) event, which began in 1999, and which today is organised by Science and Technology Australia. This unique event, that each year brings together hundreds of scientists and the Australian Parliament, owes its success to the way in which it saturates Parliament with science for two days; the great majority of parliamentarians are engaged in the all-pervasive nature of this important scientific exchange.
There are three key outcomes of SmP that distinguish it from a lobbying event:
1. Scientists both young and old – through their enthusiasm for their research – convey the excitement and the benefits of science to parliamentarians, thereby helping to close the “virtuous cycle” that supports science in society;
2. Scientists, at the same time, develop an appreciation for the process of government, contributing significantly to their professional development;
3. Finally, lasting networks are created between parliamentarians and scientists. They go beyond the meetings at SmP, and enable scientific engagement with Parliament to extend more broadly, both geographically and throughout scientific and parliamentary careers.
These networks, and the collaborations that they engender, are key to ensuring the ongoing contribution of science to government decision-making and evidence-based policy, and thereby to enhancing the role of science in our society.
As is the case with science and industry, it is important to continuously innovate in our governance processes; without this, the political system cannot respond to the changing needs of the community.
Science, through events like Science meets Parliament, is a key part of that evolution. We must work tirelessly to reinvigorate this engagement, and to counter those who might seek to cherry-pick and subvert the science that underpins our evidence-based society.
For a country that makes up just 0.3% of the world’s population, Australia packs a heavyweight punch in science – generating 3.9% of the world’s research publications. However taking that research to market has proved a broader challenge.
Fostering the commercialisation of research success and encouraging collaboration between industry and researchers is at the forefront of the government’s renewed focus on scientific innovation, with over $1.1 billion earmarked to kickstart the “ideas boom” as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
Fibrotech develops novel drug candidates to treat fibrosis (tissue scarring) associated with chronic conditions such as heart failure, kidney and pulmonary disease, and arthritis. The company spun out of research by Professor Darren Kelly at the University of Melbourne in 2006, and its principal asset is a molecule, FT011, which helps prevent kidney fibrosis associated with diabetes. In May 2014, in one of Australia’s biggest biotech deals at the time, Fibrotech was acquired by Shire, a Dublin-based pharmaceutical company, for an initial payment of US$75 million. Further payments, based on a series of milestones, will bring the total value of the sale to US$557.5 million, and the deal was awarded Australia’s best early stage venture capital deal in 2014. At the time of the sale, FT011 was in Phase 1b trials for the treatment of renal impairment in diabetics – a market worth US$4 billion annually.
SOLD FOR:acquired by Novartis for US$200 million up-front payment plus milestone payments
Spinifex Pharmaceuticals was launched in 2005 to commercialise chronic pain treatments developed by Professor Maree Smith of The University of Queensland. Pharmaceuticals giant Novartis acquired the company in 2015 for a total of US$725 million, based on the promising results in Phase 1b and Phase 2 clinical trials. Spinifex’s treatment targets nerve receptors on peripheral nerves rather than pain receptors in the brain, making it possible to treat the pain from causes such as shingles, chemotherapy, diabetes and osteoarthritis without central nervous system side-effects such as tiredness and dizziness.
Admedus is a diversified healthcare company with interests in vaccines, regenerative medicine, and the sale and distribution of medical devices and consumables. Currently, the company is developing vaccines for herpes simplex virus and human papillomavirus based on Professor Ian Frazer’s groundbreaking vaccine technology. In the regenerative medicine field, Admedus is the vendor of CardioCel®, an innovative single-ply bio-scaffold that can be used in the treatment of congenital heart deformities and complex heart defects.
For more than 25 years, ResMed has been a pioneer in the treatment of sleep-disordered breathing, obstructive pulmonary disease and other chronic diseases. The company was founded in 1989 after Professor Colin Sullivan and University of Sydney colleagues developed nasal continuous positive airway pressure – the first successful, non-invasive treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea. Today, the company employs more than 4000 people in over 100 countries, delivering treatment to millions of people worldwide.
BioDiem specialises in the development and commercialisation of vaccines and therapies to treat infectious diseases. The Live Attenuated Influenza Virus vaccine technology provides a platform for developing vaccines, including one for both seasonal and pandemic influenza. BioDiem’s subsidiary, Opal Biosciences, is developing BDM-I, a compound that offers a possible avenue for the treatment of infectious diseases that resist all known drugs.
Vaxxas is pioneering a needle-free vaccine delivery system, the Nanopatch, which delivers vaccines to the abundant immunological cells just under the skin’s surface. Preclinical studies have shown that vaccines are effective with as little as one-hundredth of a conventional dose when delivered via a Nanopatch. In 2014, Vaxxas was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Technology Pioneer, based on the potential of Nanopatch to transform global health.
Biotech company Acrux was incorporated in 1998 after researchers at Monash University developed an effective new spray-on drug delivery technology that improved absorption through the skin and nails. In 2010, Acrux struck a US$335 million deal with global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly for AxironTM, a treatment for testosterone deficiency in men. It was the largest single product licensing agreement in the history of Australian biotechnology.
With a focus on ophthalmology, Opthea’s main product is OPT-302 – a treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration – which is currently in a Phase 1/2a clinical trial. Wet macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the Western world. Opthea was formerly known as Circadian Technologies, acting as a biotechnology investment fund before transitioning to developing drugs in 2008.
Benitec Biopharma’s leading product is DNA-directed RNA interference (ddRNAi) – a platform for silencing unwanted genes as a treatment for a wide range of genetic conditions. ddRNAi has broad applications, and can assist with conditions as diverse as neurological, infectious and autoimmune diseases, as well as cancers. The company’s current focus inludes hepatitis B and C, wet age-related macular degeneration and lung cancer.
Using a wearable electroencephalograph (EEG), SmartCap monitors driver fatigue by measuring changes in brain activity without significant discomfort or inconvenience. It notifies users when they are fatigued and what time of day they’re most at risk. SmartCap was formally EdanSafe, a CRCMining spin-off company.
Founded by the CSIRO in 2007 to commercialise the UltraBattery, Ecoult was acquired by the East Penn Manufacturing Company in 2010. The UltraBattery makes it possible to smooth out the peaks and troughs in renewable power, functioning efficiently in a state of partial charge for extended periods.
Composite materials company Quickstep was founded in 2001 to commercialise their patented manufacturing process. Working with the aerospace, automotive and defence industries, Quickstep supplies advanced carbon fibre composite panels for high technology vehicles. In 2015, the company increased its manufacturing capacity, establishing an automotive production site in Victoria in addition to their aerospace production site in NSW.
The EDV is a nanocell mechanism for delivering drugs and functional nucleic acids and can target tumours without coming into contact with normal cells, greatly reducing toxicity. Above all, the EDV therapeutic stimulates the adaptive immune response, thereby enhancing anti-tumour efficacy. More than 260 patents support the technology, developed entirely by EnGeneIC, giving the company control over its application.
Snap’s FMx is a unique approach to video surveillance that forms cameras into a network based on artificial intelligence that learns relationships between what the cameras can see. It enables advanced real-time tracking and easier compilation of video evidence. Developed at the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Visual Technologies, the system is operational at customer sites in Australia, Europe and North America.
Orthocell develops innovative technologies for treating tendon, cartilage and soft tissue injuries. Its Ortho-ATI™ and Ortho-ACI™ therapies, for damaged tendons and cartilage, use the patient’s cells to assist treatments. Its latest product, CelGro™, is a collagen scaffold for soft tissue and bone regeneration.
As the demand for effective energy storage grows, RedFlow’s zinc-bromide flow batteries are gaining attention. RedFlow has outsourced its manufacturing to North America to keep up with demand, while the company’s research and development continues in Brisbane.
Since 2002, precision engineering company MiniFAB has completed more than 900 projects for customers across the globe. MiniFAB provides a complete design and manufacturing service, and has developed polymer microfluidic and microengineered devices for medical and diagnostic products, environmental monitoring, food packaging and aerospace.
RayGen’s power generation method involves an ultra high efficiency array of photovoltaic cells, which receive focused solar energy from heliostats (mirrors) that track the sun, resulting in high performance at low cost. In December 2014, RayGen and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) collaborated to produce the highest ever efficiency for the conversion of sunlight into electricity. The independently verified result of 40.4% efficiency for the advanced system is a game changer, now rivalling the performance of conventional fossil power generation.
CSL is Australia’s largest biotechnology company, employing over 14,000 people across 30 countries. The company began in 1916, when the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories was founded in Melbourne. It was incorporated in 1991, and listed on the ASX in 1994. Since that time, CSL has acquired established plasma protein maker CSL Behring, and Novartis’ influenza vaccine business, and has become a global leader in the research, manufacture and marketing of biotherapies.
Dyesol Limited (ASX: DYE) is a renewable energy supplier and leader in Perovskite Solar Cell (PSC) technology – 3rd Generation photovoltaic technology. The company’s vision is to create a viable low-cost source of electricity with the potential to disrupt the global energy supply chain and energy balance.
EvoGenix began as a startup in 2001 to commercialise EvoGene™, a powerful method of improving proteins, developed by the CSIRO and the CRC for Diagnostics. It acquired US company Absalus Inc in 2005, then merged with Australian biotechnology company Peptech in 2007, to form Arana Therapeutics. In 2009, Cephalon Inc bought the company for $207 million.
With a vision to create sustainable energy through renewable biofuels, Muradel is a joint venture between the University of Adelaide, Murdoch University and SQC Pty Ltd. Their $10.7 million Demonstration Plant converts algae and biosolids into green crude oil. Muradel has plans for upgrades to enable the sustainable production of up to 125,000 L of crude oil, and to construct a commercial plant capable of supplying over 50 megalitres of biocrude from renewable feedstocks.
iCetana’s ‘iMotionFocus’ technology employs machine learning to determine what is the ‘normal’ activity viewed by each camera in a surveillance system and alerts operators when ‘abnormal’ events occur. This enables fewer operators to monitor more cameras with greater efficiency.
Phylogica is a drug discovery service, and the owner of Phylomer® Libraries, the largest and most structurally diverse suite of natural peptides. It has worked with some of the world’s largest drug companies, including Pfizer and Roche, to uncover drug candidates.
The research compiled by Refraction was judged by a panel comprising of: Dr Peter Riddles, biotechnology expert and director on many start-up enterprises; Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO and Executive Director of AusBiotech; and Tony Peacock, Chief Executive of the Cooperative Research Centres Association. The panel considered the following: total market value, annual turnover, patents awarded and cited, funding and investment, growth year-on-year, social value, overseas expansion and major partnerships.
Academia has a checkered history of elevating women in science. While many leading women scientists to-date have acted as truly innovative researchers – Marie Curie for example – much of the way science is celebrated has innate bias.
Scientists are ranked by academic achievement – promotions and grants, recognition and awards – all emphasising papers published and cited, fellowships received and so on.
Enabling women in science
Australia needs to clearly develop a new platform of scientific achievement – in which, according to the $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), innovation is “critical to improving Australia’s competitiveness, standard of living, high wages and generous social welfare net”.
NISA notes several important factors, but fails to clearly set an agenda for women in science to succeed within the new innovation framework. For instance, it cites:
“We will introduce, for the first time, clear and transparent measures of non-academic impact and industry engagement when assessing university research performance.”
These factors are also critical in removing barriers to career advancement for women in science who have taken a career break, and whose academic output is less than men in equivalent positions as a result.
It also notes that women hold “around a quarter of STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] and ICT [information and communications technology] related jobs and are significantly underrepresented in high-level research positions. We need to engage more girls in STEM and computing, and provide pathways to progress their interest across the education system and into careers.”
To address this NISA has earmarked $13 million to improve opportunities for women in science and STEM more broadly. How this money will be spent is unclear.
There is a strong and clear need to alter the way that scientific achievements are acknowledged when looking at scientists’ track records, grants eligibility and promotional opportunities. We need to reward collaboration, to allow other career achievements along with citations and impact factor to be part of the recognition process.
We need to alter many things about the way scientists are recognised to promote women in science, from looking for bias in the language we use to valuing the mentorship provided by scientists in a more inclusive and meaningful way.
There needs to be flexibility, appropriate leave and allowances for travel factored into work in science. Education around bias is important, and much could be learned from the corporate sector here.
This is not the time to take baby steps in addressing gender equity for women in science. We need to take great strides, and look to the government for greater leadership in addressing this sooner rather than later.
Watch this animation to see how neutrons travel through the EMU Backscattering Spectrometer and are scattered from a sample. EMU is one of a suite of neutron-scattering instruments at ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) based at the Bragg Institute.
Atoms move in a variety of ways, for example by vibrating, oscillating and rotating within a material, and this can have a huge effect on the material’s properties and function. EMU reveals dynamics in protein samples, for example, helping scientists to better understand human biology – ultimately leading to better drug design.
EMU will open up a new energy window to the Australian research community, one that cannot easily be accessed with X-ray or optical spectroscopy, though some of the same physics or chemistry can sometimes be tackled with NMR or muon-spin resonance.
EMU is funded as part of the Australian Government’s Super-Science Initiative. Its conceptual design was completed in early 2010. Find out more at ANSTO.