The Australian Research Council’s (ARC) inaugural Engagement and Impact assessment (EI 2018), released Friday 29 March 2019, measures how universities engage with people outside of academia, and how their research translates into economic, social, health, environmental and other benefits.

Many of the University of Wollongong’s research projects involve searching for better ways to treat illness and disease. For our focus on ‘Health Research’ this month, we are reflecting on three different approaches to health care which have made significant impacts, benefited thousands of patients, and have the potential to transform the world for the better.

It is also interesting to note that these research areas were rated “Well above world standard” (for Physics) and “Above world standard” (for Medical and Health Sciences) in the latest ERA 2018 assessment results.  

MOSkin Device – Physics research

A technology that reduces the risk of excess radiation exposure for patients undergoing treatment for various cancers, by providing more accurate and safer radiation doses has been developed by researchers at the Centre for Medical Radiation Physics (CMRP) and led by Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld .

The research at CMRP investigating silicon detector technology for radiation dosimetry conducted was incorporated into the MOSkin device and has been implemented clinically in hospitals in Australia and across the world, improving the safety and clinical outcomes of hundreds of patients. MOSkin facilitated a change in clinical protocols, reducing treatment planning time, while maintaining its precision. CMRP research further improved capacity-building through the training of over 30% of radiotherapists in NSW. 

Health Research April Radiation

Chemotherapy Drug – Medical & Health Sciences Research

On the pharmaceutical front researchers at UOW developed a new chemotherapy drug, which overcomes severe adverse side effects associated with existing chemotherapy treatments while improving cancer patient outcomes. The research team led by Professor Marie Ranson, Prof John Bremner, and renowned oncologist and UOW academic Prof Philip Clingan OAM, were able to fuse previously incompatible chemotherapy drugs Leucovorin (LV) and 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) to create Deflexifol. The team have since conducted a detailed preclinical program, established a worldwide patent portfolio, and out-licensed the drug to an Australian biotechnology company, FivepHusion, which has now completed a clinical trial, showing promising results for disease control whilst reducing toxicity for patients. 

Preventing Malnutrition – Medical & Health Sciences Research

For over 15 years the University of Wollongong has led applied research into identifying, preventing and treating malnutrition in at-risk groups, specifically older adults and the infirmed, in hospital settings and the community.

The research has directly impacted individuals to improve health outcomes through policy implementation of routine malnutrition screening in Illawarra region hospitals and community; changes to food service including review of food packaging which many patients find problematic; and implementation of State and National Guidelines for nutrition standards for Hospitals and Meals on Wheels.

Through long-lasting connections and partnerships with hospitals, nutritionists, GP surgeries and community groups, such as Meals on Wheels, the research was cost-effective, timely and translatable to practice. 

Health Research April Nutrition

More recent health research news will also be featured throughout the month, including: the ‘Sutrode’- which combines the electrical properties of an electrode with the mechanical properties of a suture, a project using health data analytics to investigate the impact of practice changes on the quality and efficiency of Emergency Services at Wollongong Hospital, and other recent health research projects from the team at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI).   

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