Dean's Innovation Grant Awardees
A brief background on the 2018 Dean's Innovation Grant projects and how the award helped the recipients progress their innovative work.
DR LAURA DOWNIE
A brief background about your project in the Dean’s Innovation Grant?
About 40% of adults seek eye care with generic symptoms of eye discomfort that may or may not be due to dry eye disease. Currently, there is no single diagnostic device for accurate and efficient triaging of patients with ocular discomfort symptoms. Instead, clinicians must rely on a battery of tests that are time consuming, suffer from poor precision, and are invasive for patients.
Our technology, ADMiER, is unique, providing a one-step, point-of-care test to rapidly and accurately diagnose dry eye. The device is a transformative advance over traditional techniques and we foresee it becoming the “go to” tear film diagnostic for eye care clinicians. Societal benefit will result from more efficient patient triaging (with time savings for clinicians and economic gains relating to reduced healthcare costs). And patients will benefit from enhanced diagnosis, as this will lead to more well informed dry eye treatment, leading to improved health outcomes.
How did the Dean’s Innovation Grant help with your research?
The funding from the Dean’s Innovation grant has been invaluable for furthering the development of our diagnostic device, and has supported a comprehensive verification study investigating the effects of key operational factors (such as temperature and sample size) on the device’s measurement accuracy. This project has substantially extended our previous work, which has included a clinical validation study supporting the merit of our approach for identifying dry eye disease. Importantly, the project was fully scoped in consultation with industry, and is a critical pre-commercialisation step, essential to furthering this technology along the development pipeline.
In addition to the grant itself, through the award of the Dean’s Innovation Grant, I am currently leading my team’s involvement in the inaugural University of Melbourne - Stanford SPARK program for biomedical research translation. This milestone-based program has provided a wealth of mentoring and networking opportunities, which are supporting the ongoing commercial development of our technology.
What advice would you give to early career researchers?
I strongly encourage early-career researchers to apply for the Dean’s Innovation Grant. The Shark-tank style pitching event provided an opportunity to meet University leaders in innovation and enterprise, who are inspiring in terms of their achievements in commercialisation and have generously offered their insight and mentorship. For me, this award has opened up many opportunities for collaboration, industry engagement and networking, both within and beyond the Faculty. It is a wonderful initiative that encourages innovation and translation, to impact healthcare and ultimately deliver benefits to patients.