Tag Archives: clinical trials

multidisciplinary approach

How to move mountains

Collaboration has long been identified as an important requirement for success in business and indeed wider society. As the world changes, however, this requirement is changing too, and in many instances it is not just important, but vital for success.

Those organisations that struggle to make it central to their operations can be at a serious disadvantage. It is a case of collaborate or crumble.

We live in a world that is very complex and getting more so. This means today’s societal challenges are also getting harder to resolve. And as much as we would like simple solutions to complex problems, they usually don’t exist. Sophisticated, multi-faceted solutions are more often the only way to address complex challenges.

At Cochlear we are very familiar with such a challenge: hearing loss. Hearing loss is already a recognised global public health issue, with the World Health Organisation estimating that over 360 million people worldwide suffer from disabling hearing loss.

It is a health issue with significant medical, social and economic impacts. And with populations in many countries getting older, the problems are likely to get amplified.

Addressing the hearing loss challenge requires a sophisticated, multidisciplinary approach. The technology challenge alone involves over 30 different science and engineering specialities required to develop an implantable hearing solution that addresses severe to profound hearing loss.

And that is just the product, which on its own won’t do anything. It needs to be clinically validated for different age segments and approved by more than 20 regulatory bodies around the world. Policy makers and health insurers need to be convinced of the technology’s efficacy in order to improve access and funding. And we need to work with industry organisations, consumer groups, government and media to elevate the importance of hearing loss and the treatments available.

This of course can’t happen by a single person or team – it requires collaboration between numerous disciplines and professionals who contribute to different parts of the problem at different stages.

As we work to address more complex problems, we are also facing a paradox: on the one hand we need deeper and deeper expertise in specific areas because breakthroughs in one specialty area can have huge impacts on the total solution. And on the other hand we need some breadth too – specialists who can reach out from their niche to the broader teams that they are working with, both locally and globally, to understand the big picture problem and to help construct the end-to-end solution. Collaboration and being able to connect the dots are critical skills as they allow the solution to work in the real world.

Collaboration is vital in today’s world. It enables problem solvers to work together, extract value from diverse speciality areas and focus on large, important challenges. Without it we would crumble, but with it we can build a better future.

Jan Janssen

Senior Vice President, Design & Development, Cochlear

Read next: Professor Ken Baldwin, Director of the Energy Change Institute at ANU and founder of Science meets Parliament, offers a way forward for evidence-based policy in Australia.

Spread the word: Help Australia become a collaborative nation! Share this piece on a multidisciplinary approach to collaboration 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.

New therapy

New therapy calms inflammation in ‘butterfly’ skin

Children with the rare genetic disease Epidermolysis Bullosa face a lifetime of pain due to constant blistering of their skin and other body surfaces. But a new therapy calms inflammation in ‘butterfly’ skin.

The University of South Australia’s Dr Zlatko Kopecki has developed a product to help these kids. The product could potentially treat all people with inflammatory skin conditions.

“We have identified a harmful protein that impairs skin healing in these so-called ‘butterfly children’, and created a new product to address this,” explains Kopecki.

“More broadly, the new therapy we have developed may improve recovery from all kinds of wounds.”

Epidermolysis Bullosa occurs due to failure in scaffold-like structures that link skin cells to each other. With the normal protective barrier to the outside world now leaky, the child’s immune system is forced onto on a never-ending circuit of high alert and repair.

“If the children manage to survive the numerous infections they endure in early childhood, they die from skin cancers induced by this constant cycle,” says Kopecki.

The new therapy for Epidermolysis Bullosa dampens harmful inflammation in the skin by blocking the activity of a protein known as Flightless.

“When extracellular Flightless protein is mopped up by specific neutralising antibodies we have developed, it results in improved healing of blistered skin and improved cellar migration,” says Kopecki.

The effectiveness of the antibody in reducing skin inflammation in mice is described in a recent paper published by Kopecki with colleagues at the Women’s and Childrens’ Health Research Institute, University of South Australia and University of Adelaide.

The researchers are now focused on transitioning this finding to create a new therapy that works in humans.

“We hope to run our first clinical trials in 2016 and aim to develop a marketable product within five years,” says Kopecki.

The new therapy would be a welcome relief for the 500,000 people worldwide who suffer from Epidermolysis Bullosa.

It may also open up new opportunities to treat impaired skin healing due to diabetes, aging, burns and skin blistering, which together cost the Australian federal government in excess of AU$2.6 billion per year.

Kopecki presented his research at Fresh Science South Australia 2015. Fresh Science is a national program that helps early-career researchers find and share their stories of discovery.

– Sarah Keenihan

This article was first published on 5 November 2015 on The Lead and was also shared by Science in Public.