Preventing hospital infection with innovation | Chris O'Brien Lifehouse
 In Inspiring Stories, Lifehouse News

A team of scientists has been recognised by their peers for the top idea at the 2019 NHMRC Research Excellence Awards for research into protecting medical devices from infection.

Scientists from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, UNSW Science, the University of Sydney and Macquarie University were honoured last night at the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) annual Research Excellence Awards in Canberra. The team, led by Professor Mark Wilcox, from UNSW Sydney, received the ‘Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award’ for the top ranked NHMRC Ideas Grant.

The prestigious awards recognise recent outstanding performance in the health and medical research field.  The Ideas Grant scheme supports innovative research projects and each year, the best idea is selected for recognition via a highly competitive peer review process.

Head of Physics Research and Education at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Associate Professor Natalka Suchowerska said, “Our idea is about preventing potentially deadly hospital-acquired infections that occur when microbes colonise medical devices like catheters and feeding tubes. Cancer patients are particularly vulnerable, and any type of infection prolongs healing and recovery. This research has the potential to solve a pressing global health problem.”

The team received the NHMRC Excellence Award for their grant, ‘Tackling Hospital Acquired Infections with Peptide Mimics,’ which investigates ways to protect medical devices from infection.

“This is a truly collaborative effort,” A/Prof Suchowerska said. “Scientists from diverse disciplines and institutions have put their minds together to come up with the critical pieces of the puzzle – culminating in a way of treating the surfaces of medical devices to make them resistant to microbial colonisation.”

Prof Willcox and A/Prof Suchowerska collaborated with Professors Naresh Kumar and Cyrille Boyer from UNSW, Professor Jonathan Clark AM from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Professor David McKenzie from the University of Sydney and Professor Karen Vickery from Macquarie University on the successful grant. The expertise in the team ranges across materials physics, plasma physics and medical physics, microbiology, biochemistry and surgery.

“Medical devices, such as pacemakers, catheters and artificial joints can become infected and cause issues for hospitals and patients, in the worst cases death. I look forward to investigating ways to protect medical devices and stop them from becoming infected,” Prof Willcox said.

The Marshall and Warren Award recognises the most highly innovative and potentially transformative grant from all the NMHRC Project Grant scheme applications each year. The award is named after Australian Nobel Laureates Professors Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who were awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

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