Researchers receive scholarships to help advance their healthcare projects

Two Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) researchers have been awarded scholarships to help improve newborn anaesthetic care and provide better protection against respiratory tract infections in children.

MCRI PhD student, biomedical engineer and Royal Children's Hospital anaesthetist Dr Sebastian Corlette and MCRI research fellow and biomedical engineer Dr Anushi Rajapaksa received 2021 MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarships.

Dr Corlette's scholarship was for his medical technology invention, which has made it possible for him to research ways of improving the quality of anaesthetic care for newborn babies undergoing surgery.

"I had tried to measure the brainwaves of newborn babies during anaesthesia, but current methods fell short of what I needed," he said. "I searched for better tools, but they didn't exist, so I created my own and it has proven to be an excellent solution."

Dr Corlette said the scholarship would help him further develop his technology, which uses special sensors to measure neonatal brainwaves better.

Dr Rajapaksa secured a scholarship for her project to better manage respiratory tract infections caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of pneumonia in children under two.

"Australian children experience between two and seven RSV episodes every year, costing up to $50 million nationally, and currently there are no proven therapeutics or vaccines to protect against the virus," she said.

Dr Rajapaksa is using aerosols to deliver drugs directly into the lungs through inhalation, which has been trialled in pre-clinical work.

She said her findings, published in Frontiers of Pharmacology, suggested this technology could potentially offer a non-invasive method of treating these infections at a reduced cost and improve access to potentially life-saving formulations for children.

The MedTech Actuator Menzies Scholarship program will run from October to December 2021 and aim to translate biomedical research projects into real-world medical solutions.

The 10 scholarship recipients each receive a tailored learning experience, access to industry events and the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship and commercialisation goals. 

Dr Corlette and Dr Rajapaksa were also selected to compete in the MedTech Actuator Origin 2021, a two-month, early-stage entrepreneurship program and pitch competition helping founders-to-be transform their ideas into successful healthcare ventures.

After successfully pitching their projects in the first round, they will continue through to the next phase, the Origin Intensive Sprint, in November.

This round will be followed by the MedTech Actuator Showcase in December where the final three will compete for a chance to win a cash prize and in-kind services from MedTech Actuator to further develop their concepts.