Cutting-edge biopolymer 3D printed heart valve technology and a rapid and accurate test to identify the most effective antibiotic treatment have commenced commercialisation in Western Australia to help millions globally.
Both WA designed technologies received 2023 CUREator grants, a national biotechnology incubator program run by Brandon BioCatalyst with funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund and the CSIRO.
The 3D printed heart valve and the antibiotic diagnostic technology are being developed by newly formed WA companies, CoraMetix Pty Ltd and Cytophenix Pty Ltd respectively.
The next generation technologies have been developed at Perth’s Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research (the Perkins). The University of Western Australia (UWA) and PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA supported the development of Cytophenix’s technology.
CoraMetix Pty Ltd’s development of the new 3D printed heart valves is led by biomedical engineer Dr Elena Juan Pardo, alongside cardiologist and expert in the field of heart valve intervention and innovation, Dr Abdul Ihdayhid.
Dr Juan Pardo, who led the research team at the Perkins and UWA said the commercialisation accelerator grant was an integral phase on the path to testing the concept of biopolymer-based 3D printed valves as a viable alternative to currently available animal-derived or carbon-fibre mechanical valves.
“Using a 3D printing technique called Melt Electrowriting we have designed and tested a patented biopolymer 3D printed heart valve scaffold which exquisitely and uniquely mimics the mechanical properties of native human valves,” Dr Juan Pardo said.
Dr Ihdayhid said each year millions of people worldwide suffer from narrowing of the aortic valve opening which can be fatal without valve replacement.
He said most valve replacements today rely on biological valves derived from animal tissue. These have a limited lifespan; they can fail within 5 years resulting in repeat high-risk valve surgery.
Dr Juan Pardo said, “Our 3D-printed solution will be cheaper to manufacture and require less ongoing medical intervention. Most importantly, we are designing a valve to remain functional for the rest of the patient’s life, negating the need for repeat surgeries.
“Our team of international experts in biomedical engineering and cardiology aim to deliver a next-generation heart valve that provides best-in-class performance and durability.”
“This CUREator grant means that we can continue our work here in Western Australia, to test our invention further, and bring it closer to realisation, and to the patients who need it most,” she said.
The global market for a current treatment, transcatheter aortic valve replacement, is estimated to grow from $4.4 billion is 2021 to around $13.4 billion (USD) by 2030.
Antibiotic resistance solution
WA company, Cytophenix Pty Ltd, is developing breakthrough diagnostic technology in the race to save millions globally from antibiotic resistant bloodstream infections.
Cytophenix Pty Ltd is a partnership between researchers led by UWA Forrest Prospect Fellow Dr Kieran Mulroney at the Perkins and other founders from UWA and local AI firm Three Springs Technology.
Dr Mulroney is also a 2023 Premier’s Science Award finalist. Cytophenix was recently announced as one of the Emerging Innovation Category finalists, and a Business News ‘Great for the State’ Platinum Award finalist in the 2023 WA Innovator of the Year Awards.
The technology has been peer reviewed and was published in the international medical journal The Lancet eBiomedicine in July 2022.
“Our technology, the flow cytometry-assisted antimicrobial susceptibility test (FAST), is a rapid and accurate test that identifies the best antibiotic to prescribe in just 3-5 hours,” Dr Mulroney said.
Current tests take 2-5 days to isolate infecting bacteria and identify effective antibiotics. Often results arrive too late to guide the choice of antibiotics used. In serious infection, risk of death increases by 6.7% every hour without effective antibiotics.
Across Europe, the US and Australia approximately 29 million blood cultures are performed annually, representing a market size of $850 million to $1.69 billion (AUD).
“FAST is a ‘one-principle-fits-all’ platform, meaning it is applicable to essentially all combinations of bacteria, fungi, and the antibiotics that treat them. This includes novel and emerging pathogens,” he said.
Using a device that measures hundreds to tens of thousands of individual bacteria in just a few seconds, the technology detects the damage antibiotics cause to bacteria, and uses this information to recommend which antibiotic will be an effective treatment.
Across more than 19,000 individual test results from clinical samples, the technology has demonstrated the levels of real-world accuracy and precision required by regulatory agencies for clinical use.
“We can predict which antibiotics will be effective to treat that infection with 96.9 per cent accuracy,”.
Each year 1.27 million people worldwide die from infections resistant to antibiotics. Without effective antibiotics, patients deteriorate rapidly and can die within hours.
Perth physician, Dr Aron Chakera said, “Patients with serious infections cannot survive the several days it can take to return traditional antibiotic test results. Consequently, a broad spectrum, ‘one-size-fits-all’, antibiotic is typically prescribed.
“The biggest problem with prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics is that it encourages some bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotics. This is a growing and serious problem world-wide.
“The overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics is one of the key drivers in the spread of resistance to antibiotics”, he said.