Seminars and events

As part of the Bionics Institute 2014 Seminar Series, Professor Peter Seligman, a key member of the team that developed the
Melbourne/Cochlear multichannel cochlear implant and Bionics Institute biomedical engineer and mentor, gave a talk entitled
 "The path to a clinical cochlear implant".

To view the video and get an insight into the history of this life-changing device click here.


Seminars are held each week at the Bionics Institute and are open to the public. Registration is not required.

The seminars are held at the Institute, unless stated otherwise:

4-5pm each Friday

Bionics Institute

Level 1, 384-388 Albert Street

East Melbourne

4/11/2016 4:00 PMInnervation of mammalian auditory tissues by stem cell-derived neuronsTomoko Hyakumura, PhD student and research assistant, Bionics Institute
Abstract: The loss of auditory neurons that occurs with profound hearing loss is irreversible in humans. Stem cell therapy for auditory neuron replacement thereby offers potential for hearing restoration in patients with profound deafness. This project aims to investigate and quantify the formation of new synapses between human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons and target peripheral and central auditory tissues in vitro.
Sensory neurons were generated from human embryonic stem cells over 21 days in vitro and then co-cultured with developing sensory hair cells or cochlear nucleus slices for a further 2 weeks. Synapse formation was examined using four-channel immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy, and analysed using ImageJ software. Stem cell-derived synapses were then compared to synapses in the developing mammalian peripheral and central auditory system.
Stem cell-derived neurons expressed synapsin 1 and vesicular glutamate transporter-1 at sites of innervation with both hair cells and cochlear nucleus neurons. This observation is consistent with results obtained from control cocultures using early postnatal auditory neurons and auditory tissues. Significantly more synaptic contacts were observed in stem cell cocultures in comparison to control cocultures (P <0.05). Moreover, new synapses from stem cell-derived neurons corresponded anatomically with early synaptogenesis in the developing mammalian auditory system in vivo. This assay describes the characterisation, timing and quantification of new synaptic connections both by stem cell-derived neurons in vitro and in the developing mammalian auditory system.
Bio: Tomoko graduated from Monash University with an Honours Degree in Biochemistry. Her Honours project investigated the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells towards a visceral endoderm-like lineage. After graduating, she was recruited to work as a research assistant in Professor Seong-Seng Tan’s laboratory at the Howard Florey Institute, investigating mouse cortical development using transgenic and conditional knockout mice. In 2012, Tomoko was awarded an Australian postgraduate award and Australian Stem Cell Centre postgraduate Scholarship to complete her PhD under the supervision of Dr Bryony Nayagam. Her achievements have won her several awards including the 2014 “Under the Coverslip” competition and a scholarship from the International Society for Developmental Neuroscience.
28/10/2016 4:00 PMEvaluating Miniature Deep Brain Stimulation Electrodes In VivoDr Joel Villalobos
Abstract: Deep Brain Stimulation is used for the treatment of motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. However, its efficacy is limited by factors including poor selectivity of stimulation, targeting error, and complications related to implant reliability and stability. We aim to improve clinical outcomes by miniaturizing the implantable electrode array, improving stimulation selectivity with finer electrode spacing, and assisting targeting by incorporating microelectrodes into the device. We used micro-wire electrodes incorporated into Deep Brain Stimulation implants with different diameters (miniature = 0.65 and standard = 1.3 mm). Arrays were bilaterally implanted into the thalamus in ten anaesthetised cats for 24-40 hours using stereotactic techniques. Recordings of local field potentials and multi-unit activity were obtained at 1 mm intervals along the electrode insertion track.
Local field potentials were recorded from all ring electrodes, despite the higher impedance of the miniature ring electrodes (608±158 Ω at 1 kHz vs. 427±47 Ω for the standard rings). Multi-unit activity (signal-to-noise ratio of 15–30 dB) was recorded from 54% of the microelectrodes; mostly from the microelectrodes placed at the distal end. Histological examination showed localized trauma along the implant. The extent of oedema and haemorrhage was significantly reduced with the miniature electrodes (119–352 µm vs. 311–571 µm; t-test, P < 0.001).
The miniature electrodes reduced the extent of acute trauma, while still providing adequate performance for both stimulating and recording, and providing the option to target smaller volumes of tissue. The incorporation of microelectrodes into the electrode array may allow for a simplified, single-step surgical approach.
Bio: Joel Villalobos is a Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute (Melbourne, Australia). He completed a PhD at The University of Melbourne on the preclinical evaluation of a retinal prosthesis (Bionic Eye), enabling the translation into a first-in-human (clinical) trial. His background studies in Electronic Systems Engineering (Cum Laude, Tec de Monterrey) led him initially into the instrumentation (electronic) and automation industry in his native México. There he worked as a senior design engineer with clients (international) in the building automation (smart buildings) and automotive (cars) industries. These days, Joel’s efforts at the Bionics Institute concentrate on improving technologies for treating degenerative blindness (retinitis pigmentosa) and Parkinson’s disease.
21/10/2016 4:00 PMCommercialising innovations through industry collaboration: learnings from ‘SoundRecover’Prof Hugh McDermott, Leader, Neurobionics Research, Bionics Institute

Abstract: SoundRecover is an innovative sound-processing technique that improves the performance of acoustic hearing aids. It was developed in Melbourne by a small team of researchers working in close collaboration with Phonak, the world's largest manufacturer of hearing instruments. SoundRecover was devised, developed, and initially evaluated during 2002-2005. It was launched commercially by Phonak in 2007. Its immediate success led rapidly to its introduction in almost all of Phonak's hearing-aid products, of which over 1 million are sold globally each year.

SoundRecover helps many hearing-aid users to hear high-frequency sounds by shifting them to lower frequencies. Although frequency lowering is not a new concept, the digital signal processing techniques employed in SoundRecover are innovative and protected in a number of patents. In the years since SoundRecover was launched, the hearing-aid industry has experienced a minor paradigm shift: whereas frequency lowering was widely considered to be worthless when we started our research, now almost all major hearing-aid companies around the world have some type of frequency lowering in their product portfolio.

In this seminar I will discuss the benefits of working directly with a major technology company as well as some of the challenges we encountered and (mostly) overcame. Our experiences are highly relevant to many of the Bionics Institute's projects, particularly as we align our research objectives more closely with commercial considerations.

Bio: I have worked in the field of cochlear implants and related devices for 35 years. As my background is in electronic engineering, my contributions to the field are mostly related to techniques for electrical nerve stimulation and signal processing. Translation of research into practical outcomes that benefit people has always been a major aim of my work. I am named as an inventor on 25 patents or patent applications, and 5 innovative technologies to which I contributed are embodied in successful commercial products. I am an author or co-author of over 140 publications and have been invited to speak at international conferences on over 60 occasions. I am a Fellow of IEEE, a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. I received the inaugural Callier Prize from the University of Texas, Dallas in 2009. I joined the Bionics Institute as Deputy Director (Research) in 2010, and at present my main role is to lead a research program focused on developing deep brain stimulation devices to improve treatment of Parkinson's disease and other disorders.

7/10/2016 4:00 PMWhat does it take to get a new medical device to market: Regulatory approvals mazeGraeme Rathbone, Project Manager, Bionics Institute

Abstract: Maze: 1) a confusing network of intercommunicating paths or passages; labyrinth. 2) any complex system or arrangement that causes bewilderment, confusion, or perplexity. In this presentation, I will draw on my current experience with the development of two new devices and past experiences with the TGA, Bionics Institute and lecture presentations to outline the process of medical device regulatory approvals for Australia, New Zealand, North America and some aspects of Europe. This topic is of increasing importance to the emerging commercial interests of the Bionics Institute.

Bio: Graeme has worked in the private, public and academic sectors. He has the majority of his working life lecturing in Biomedical Engineering and Control Systems, initially at RMIT, then La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne. He has undertaken research at the Bionics Institute over the last 10 years including supervision of Masters and PhD students. However, he has also been active in the Yarra Valley wine business, being a co-founder of Yering Station (1996) and owner of Diamond Valley Vineyards (since 2005) and will draw on some of that experience in this second presentation.

23/09/2016 4:00 PMLearning curve – an engineer’s amble towards the foothills of molecular biology Prof Peter Seligman
Abstract: As an electrical engineer who came up through the tech school system, we did no biology and certainly no molecular biology (which hardly existed then). But recent events in molecular biology have struck me as being truly momentous in their implications. I needed to know more. So starting from nothing, recently I have been self-educating myself on this. It’s really fascinating and has a lot of similarity to engineering in many ways.
I’d like to take you on my journey. I’ve learned (very superficially) 
•              What DNA is
•              How it is distributed in the body, and any life for that matter.
•              How it is extracted from a sample of tissue
•              How it can be amplified from a single strand to billions
•              How to sequence  it
•              How it can be edited quickly and efficiently
•              What a gene is
•              What the role of genes is
•              How they replicate
•              How genes operate in living things, to grow tissue, perform functions, go wrong
•              How our bodies/life utilize many different DNA systems
•              About problems and challenges.
Bio: Peter was a key member of the team that developed the Melbourne/Cochlear multiple-channel cochlear implant. He worked in the field for 30 years and was particularly responsible for the development and improvement of speech processors.  In 1979 he designed the first portable Speech Processor for the University of Melbourne device. He joined Cochlear Ltd (Nucleus) in 1983 and was instrumental in speech processor miniaturisation and improvement including the development of custom microchips to implement new speech processing strategies. He holds 21 patents. His special interest was the development of smaller behind-the-ear speech processors and totally implanted cochlear implants.
16/09/2016 2:00 PMTen rules for the interpretation and presentation of data in publications Prof David Vaux, Deputy Director, WEHI
Abstract: Science is knowledge gained through repeated observation or experiment. It is communicated through publication of papers in journals. Science can only flourish if its results are reproducible, journals maintain minimal standards, and papers are read critically. The talk will be illustrated by numerous examples of papers by high profile researchers in prestigious journals that would only have had some value had they been printed on absorbent paper with perforated pages.
Bio: David Vaux is Deputy Director of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI). He graduated in medicine from the University of Melbourne, and then completed a PhD at WEHI before 3 years as a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford. He returned to the WEHI in 1993. For his research on cell death he was awarded the Victoria Prize for science in 2003. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. He is on the Board of the Center for Scientific Integrity, the parent of Retraction Watch. When he isn’t doing research he lobbies for establishment of an Office for Research Integrity in Australia.
2/09/2016 4:00 PMHidden Hearing LossA/Prof James Fallon
Abstract: Recent animal studies have demonstrated that moderate sound exposure can damage up to half the auditory nerves and their synapses, without damaging hair cells. As only a small number of the highly sensitive low-threshold auditory nerve fibres are required for sound detection in quiet environments, there is no loss in auditory sensitivity. Normal auditory thresholds, despite the significant loss of auditory nerve fibres, has led to this type of damage being termed a ‘hidden hearing loss’. To date, the only reported functional consequence of the loss of auditory nerves and their synapses is an increase in median spontaneous firing rate of the auditory nerve fibre population. However, modelling of the loss of functional auditory nerves and their synapses is expected to result in a reduction in temporal fidelity. This project aimed to quantify temporal processing deficits using both behavioural and electrophysiological techniques in an guinea pig model of hidden hearing loss.
Bio: A/Prof James Fallon’s training, like his research interests, is multidisciplinary in nature, and is focused around the successful development and improvement of neural prostheses, with an emphasis on the role of central nervous system plasticity. He has formal training in both physiology and engineering and employs a range of techniques from basic engineering through anatomical studies to behavioural studies. He has over a decade of experience in recording from the central auditory pathway and is considered a world expert on the plastic response of the central auditory system to deafness and subsequent reactivation with a cochlear implant.
26/08/2016 4:00 PMThe expected benefit of hearing aids as a function of hearing lossProf Peter Blamey, Executive Director Operations & Technology, Blamey & Saunders Hearing Pty Ltd
Abstract: It is often reported clinically that it is important to manage the expectations of clients when fitting hearing aids, but there is little scientific information available about what is a realistic expectation and how to quantify the benefits of hearing aids.  The aim of this study was to estimate the speech perception benefits of hearing aid fitting for clients with different degrees of hearing loss.  The difference between the aided and unaided percentage correct scores on a monosyllabic word test presented binaurally was used as the measure of benefit.  Retrospective data for 592 users of the same type of hearing aid with pure-tone average hearing losses ranging from 6.5 dB HL to 78.5 dB HL in the better ear were analysed using a paired t-test and non-linear regression.  The mean benefit for this group of clients was 18.3% with a 95% confidence interval from 17.0% to 19.6% (paired t=27.1, p<0.001). On average, hearing aids halved the error rate for difficult listening tasks in quiet, and listeners can expect to reduce their error rate in running speech by a factor of four.  The benefit for this group was approximately equivalent to a 28 dB reduction in hearing loss.
Bio: Peter is a hearing scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur who has developed technology and business models that are bringing improved hearing to people throughout Australia.  Peter and his business partner, Elaine Saunders, sell premium hearing aids direct to end-users, enabling them to take control of their own hearing through their online company ( Built on a heritage of research conducted at the Bionics Institute, the company is continuing to innovate and grow, and is starting to manufacture hearing aids in Melbourne.  The company won the inaugural Social Innovation section of the Australian Good Design Awards last year.
5/08/2016 4:00 PMKinEdge: accurate human motion capture using Microsoft Kinect v2 and computer vision techniquesGino Coates & Alessandro Timmi, St Vincent's Department of Surgery, The University of Melbourne
Abstract: Three-dimensional motion analysis has made it possible to analyse different aspects of healthy and pathological human movement. However, motion capture requires expensive and cumbersome multi-camera systems, which track reflective markers attached on the subject’s skin.
The recent release of Microsoft Kinect v2, a gaming device which can track human motion without the need for markers, has generated considerable interest in the biomechanical community, especially given its low cost and portability. However, Kinect v2 marker-less tracking algorithm is highly inaccurate compared to multi-camera motion capture systems: deviations up to 20 cm make this methodology unsuitable for biomechanical or clinical analyses, where accuracy is essential for proper evaluation.
In light of this limitation, we developed an alternative real-time tracking method, based on raw RGB-D data from Kinect v2, custom-made coloured markers and computer vision techniques. Our solution, KinEdge, is one order of magnitude more accurate than the out-of-the-box Kinect v2 marker-less tracking algorithm and runs on consumer-grade PCs. KinEdge can facilitate the adoption of Kinect v2 as a low cost, portable motion tracking solution for biomechanical, rehabilitative, clinical and sports applications. This presentation will walk you through the development of our novel solution and its application for spine tracking and gait analysis.
Gino Coates: I’m a solution architect with over 20 years’ experience, and part time PhD student. My research focuses on building low cost software and hardware solutions for clinical use. I'm interested in biomechanics, software development and practices, science and technology, and Martial-Arts.
Alessandro Timmi: My research interests are focused on the use and adaptation of gaming technologies for human motion capture, musculoskeletal modelling, rehabilitation and sports coaching. Karateka 3rd Dan, YouTuber (check my channel), interested in kinematics, applied mechanics, software development, 3D printing, CAD, CAE, sports engineering and video editing.
29/07/2016 4:00 PMUsing CRISPR/Cas9 technology to identify and validate novel cell death regulators Dr Marco Herold, Laboratory Head, Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division, The Walter & Eliza Hall Institute
Abstract: CRISPR/Cas9 mediated genome engineering provides an easy and rapid way to edit genes in vitro and in vivo. Initial experimental strategies utilised proved to have a low efficiency and were not broadly applicable to all cell types. In order to overcome this hurdle and to allow for efficient modification of genes in the haematopoietic system, we have developed a novel drug-inducible lentiviral system to deliver the CRISPR/Cas9 platform to cells permitting efficient genome engineering in vitro and in vivo. Additionally we have recently also implemented the CRISPR/Cas9 technology to produce genetically modified mice and to perform whole genome screens.
Bio: Marco Herold is a Laboratory Head in the Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division at WEHI. He is an expert in developing novel mouse models of human cancer, and has brought the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology to WEHI, where he has recently been appointed to the position of Head of the new Genome Editing Laboratory; the task of this laboratory is to generate mutant mice using CRISPR/Cas9 methodology. Dr Herold’s PhD at the University of Würzburg (Germany) addressed key questions in apoptosis and cancer. His major research interest is in the identification of novel genes in apoptosis, and in finding new targets for cancer therapy.
22/07/2016 4:00 PMIntroducing a silicone process for electrode design Frank Rehberger, Masters Student & Research Assistant, University of Freiburg, IMTEK, Laboratory for Biomedical Microtechnology
Abstract: Silicone as implant material has been used for decades. Spin processing (a technique originating in microelectronic fabrication) can be used to create thin layers of silicone with good control of process parameters. This is an established process and has been used in electrode fabrication previously. Combining this technique with other processes and integration of different materials to tailor the physical properties could create new possibilities for electrode development. Our aim was to set up the basic spin process, then modify it and combine it with available processes. To further raise the potential, we addressed the issue of structuring layer-based materials in three dimensions. The results suggest that this might be useful tools in future electrode Design.
Bio: Frank Rehberger is a student at the Department for Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg. He joined the Laboratory for Biomedical Microsystems as a student assistant in 2013 to work on silicone waveguides for Optogenetics and completed his B.Sc. in 2014. He is currently enrolled in Freiburg to obtain a M.Sc. in the same field. He joined the Bionics Institute on February 2016 for a six-month internship.
15/07/2016 4:00 PMMediolateral balance assessment using tracking tasksDr L. Eduardo Cofré Lizama, The University of Melbourne
Abstract: Falls in older adults and neurological populations have been found to be associated to incorrect weight-shifting during, for example, standing and walking. Therefore, assessment of mediolateral balance is crucial for determining subjects at risk of falling but also to determine efficacy of rehabilitation interventions. However, current clinical tools are direction unspecific, insensitive to subtle deterioration of balance and have ceiling effects. In this regards, the mediolateral balance assessment (MELBA) has been proposed. MELBA consists in tracking predictable and unpredictable visual targets with the centre of pressure (CoP) or mass (CoM) by leaning the whole body sideward. The bandwidth of accurate tracking in terms of phase-shift (delay) and gain (amplitude) are then used to quantify balance control. This tool has shown to be a reliable, valid and sensitive to subtle detriments of ML balance control. Currently MELBA is being studied in neurological populations and further implementation in clinical settings is expected.
Bio: Dr LE (Eduardo) Cofré-Lizama is a physiotherapist from Chile and MSc in Physiotherapy (UNIMELB) who graduated from the MOVE-AGE joint Doctorate program (MOVE Research Institute Amsterdam and KU Leuven) in 2014. His research interests are in the fields of biomechanics and neurosciences and the utilization of motion, force and wearable sensors for the quantification of movement and balance deterioration. He is currently working at MOVElab (RMH-Royal Park) were he is working on projects related to identification of movement biomarkers of MS progression, walking patterns in amputees and neuromodulation in neurological populations.
1/07/2016 4:00 PMApplication of Literature Mining for Protein Function PredictionA/Prof Karin Verspoor
Abstract: The biomedical literature captures the most current biomedical knowledge and is a tremendously rich resource for research. With over 24 million publications currently indexed in the US National Library of Medicine’s PubMed index, however, it is becoming increasingly challenging for biomedical researchers to keep up with this literature. Automated strategies for extracting information from it are required. Large-scale processing of the literature enables direct biomedical knowledge discovery. In this presentation, I will introduce the use of text mining techniques to support analysis of biological data sets, and will specifically discuss applications in protein function and phenotype prediction, facilitated by analysis of the literature and integration with complementary structured resources.
Bio: Karin Verspoor is Associate Professor in the Department of Computing and Information Systems and Deputy Director of the Health and Biomedical Centre at the University of Melbourne. Trained as a computational linguist, Karin’s research primarily focuses on text mining of clinical texts and the biomedical literature to support biological discovery and clinical decision support. Karin held previous posts as the Scientific Director of Health and Life Sciences at NICTA Victoria Research Laboratory, at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. She also spent 5 years in start-ups during the US Tech bubble.
17/06/2016 4:00 PMGene therapy for protecting and regenerating sensory cells in the cochlea after hearing loss Dr Rachael Richardson, Senior Research Fellow, Bionics Institute
Abstract: An estimated 360 million people suffer from hearing loss worldwide. Sensorineural hearing loss is characterized by permanent loss of cochlear sensory hair cells and severe degeneration of auditory neurons. The goal of the gene therapy program at the Bionics Institute, headed by Dr Rachael Richardson, is to use gene therapy to protect, repair or regenerate these sensory cells after hearing loss. The gene therapy program broadly encompasses the use of neurotrophin gene therapy for protection and regrowth of auditory neurons, Atoh1 gene therapy for the regeneration of hair cells and optogenetics to allow optical stimulation of auditory neurons. Within these research topics, major research themes have been gene therapy delivery to the cochlea, the impact of the degenerative processes of hearing loss and the effect of cochlear implantation on gene therapy. This presentation will provide an overview of our recent research on gene therapy in the cochlea for protecting and regenerating sensory cells in the cochlea after hearing loss and optogenetics in the cochlea for optical stimulation of auditory neurons.
Bio: Dr Rachael Richardson is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute. Rachael’s research focus is on gene therapy in the cochlea for the preservation and regeneration of cochlear sensory cells after hearing loss. She is particularly interested in hair cell regeneration using the Atoh1 gene as this has the potential to reverse hearing loss.  She uses viral gene therapy techniques to create localized regions of gene expression in the cochlea for sensory cell survival or regeneration. Recently Rachael and her team have also been investigating optogenetics to determine whether auditory neurons can be stimulated more precisely with light compared to electrical stimulation.
Rachael receives competitive funding from the NHMRC as well as from philanthropic sources in Australia and the UK. Dr Richardson completed a BSc degree at the University of Melbourne in Biochemistry and Pathology. Her BSc(Hons) and PhD were undertaken at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Department of Cancer and Haematology, supervised by Prof Doug Hilton. Rachael has worked at the Bionics Institute since 2001.
10/06/2016 4:00 AMWhy does speech understanding vary among adult cochlear implant (CI) recipients?Prof Colette M. McKay
Abstract: Around 30% of adult CI users have poor speech understanding, and rely upon lip-reading for communication. History factors such as duration of deafness account for only around 10% of the variability in outcomes, making poor prognosis a critical clinical issue. Different physiological mechanisms have been proposed to account for poor speech understanding, including patchy survival of peripheral spiral ganglion cells (SGCs) and plastic changes in the central auditory system or in the cortical networks that support language processing. Evidence supporting these mechanisms comes from animal studies and from EEG, imaging, or psychophysical studies in human CI users. However, so far it is unclear whether these mechanisms have independent causal effects on speech understanding, how they could be assessed before implantation, or whether they can be reversed after implantation with targeted therapies or specific signal processing strategies.
In this presentation, I will summarise recent work at the Bionics Institute in which we found strong correlations between poor speech understanding and the following measures: A) variability in thresholds of highly focussed stimuli in a research CI (evidence of patchy SGC survival) B) poor detection ability of small changes in relative current level across different electrode places and C) high activation levels in the bilateral pre-frontal cortices as measured by a novel brain imaging technique called functional near infrared spectroscopy. Finally, I will propose a model that related these measures to poor speech understanding and how the techniques might be used to improve prognosis or individually optimise hearing therapies after implantation.
Bio: Professor McKay is an international leader in the field of psychophysics with electrical stimulation, and her multidisciplinary research combines psychophysics, speech perception, speech processing and mathematical modelling with the aim of improving outcomes of auditory implants. She contributed significantly to the design and signal processing strategies used in the family of cochlear implants manufactured by Cochlear Ltd.  She graduated and received her PhD from the University of Melbourne in the fields of mathematics and physics. From 1991-2004, she was Research Fellow, Senior Research Fellow, and then Principal Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne Department of Otolaryngology. From 2005 to 2013 she held chair and research group leadership positions at Aston University, Birmingham, and Manchester University in the UK. Since 2013 she has led the Translational Hearing Research group at the Bionics Institute.
3/06/2016 4:00 PMNeurogenesis and neuroprotection against retinal degenerative diseases Prof Antonia Angulo Jerez
Abstract: The retinal neurogenesis has been demonstrated in several mature mammalian retinas. Stem or progenitor cells located in the ciliary body can originate retinal neurons. Our immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy studies have shown cells expressing molecular markers of neural and retinal progenitors in the pars plana of the ciliary body of adult primates and humans. The peripheral retinal margin thus represents, in monkeys and humans, a region where cellular morphological maturation and synaptogenesis is taking place in a fashion recapitulating the normal development of retinal cells. Further knowledge on the cellular extrinsic and intrinsic factors and genes involved in adult retinogenesis in primates will prove useful toward the design of therapies targeting retinal neurodegenerative disorders.

On the other hand, proper development and functioning of the retina requires a precise balance between the processes of proliferation, differentiation and programmed cell death. The retina is one of the most susceptible tissues to reactive oxygen species damage. It has been recently shown that the efficacy of natural products to slow retinal degenerative processes through different pathways. We assess the neuroprotective effect of safranal and tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) in an animal model of retinitis pigmentosa (P23H rats). These compounds could be potentially useful for therapeutic applications in retinal degenerative diseases.
Bio: Antonia has a wide researching and teaching activity as a University Tenured Lecturer at the University of Alicante (Spain). She is the head of the Human Anatomy and Embryology Area at the Department of Optics, Pharmacology and Anatomy. Currently she is an Academic Visitor at The Bionics Institute during her sabbatical leave. In 1986 she received her Medicine and Surgery PhD for her contributions to a neurohistological study of auditory pathway development. Antonia is Past-President of Spanish Association of Audiology and she has collaborated on Audiology books, conferences and Masters. She has participated in more than 40 I+D Neurosciences research projects and articles. She has a special interest in neurobiology of the visual and auditory systems and therapy of neurodegenerative diseases.
20/05/2016 4:00 PM“Putting out the Garbage” in Parkinson’s Disease Dr Richard Peppard, Neurologist, St. Vincent’s Hospital
Abstract: Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition with the following cardinal symptoms: uncontrollable shaking (tremor), excessive muscle tone (rigidity), slowness in movement (bradykinesia), and impaired balance (postural instability). Present therapies such as deep brain stimulation alleviate these symptoms but do not cure the underlying condition. Here, we aim to outline new approaches to slow or reverse neurodegeneration and the role of functional neurosurgery.
Bio: Dr Richard Peppard is a movement disorders neurologist at the St. Vincent’s Hospital and a Honorary Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute. He has more than 25 years of experience treating all stages of Parkinson’s with a special interest in deep brain stimulation. In his practice, more than 50 patients are implanted with neurostimulators each year.
29/04/2016 4:00 PMIntellectual Property 101 and the Patent Analytics Hub  Dr Cameron Lutton
Abstract: IP Australia is a federal government agency that plays a key role in Australia’s innovation system.  IP Australia administers intellectual property (IP) rights in Australia consisting of patents, trademarks, designs and plant breeder rights. Registering IP rights provides innovators with legal framework to protect their ideas. Understanding IP and protecting it early can be very important when establishing products or services in the market. As well as administering the Australian IP rights system, IP Australia established the Patent Analytics Hub to help government agencies, Australian universities and public research sector agencies make the most of their intellectual property.  The Hub aids understanding of their technology areas, finding collaborators and boosting the commercial returns from research.  Patent analytics can extract useful insights from vast global patent databases, through the mining, visualisation and interpretation of data.
Panel Speakers
Dr Cameron Lutton
Research Manager – Patent Analytics Hub
Dr Cameron Lutton has a background in polymer chemistry and biomedical engineering.  Prior to joining IP Australia, he spent 10 years as a multidisciplinary researcher both in Australia and overseas working on implant design, drug delivery and novel polymers for tissue repair.  At IP Australia he gained experience as a senior examiner of patents in the medical devices area, before joining the Patent Analytics Hub as a research manager. Cameron not only brings deep technical scientific knowledge to the role, but also an understanding of the IP system from experience as an examiner and through commercialisation experience gained as an academic.
Amy Hunter
Research Manager – Patent Analytics Hub
Amy Hunter is a registered Patent and Trade Mark Attorney with fifteen years’ experience in intellectual property. As an attorney, she provided strategic management and business-focussed advice on patent portfolios to a range of clients from small manufacturing businesses to large multinational firms, both in Australia and overseas. Immediately prior to her role as research manager in the Patent Analytics Hub, Amy was a senior examiner in the areas of mechanical engineering, mining engineering and medical devices at IP Australia.
Cromwel Flores
Examiner of Patents – Medical & Mechanical Devices
Cromwel Flores is a patent examiner who has been with the Patent Office for 10 years.  He holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical/Computer Science) and a Bachelor of Science (Physiology) from Monash University.  Currently he examines patents from the biomedical and mechanical fields.
Emma Francis
Examiner of Patents – Medical and Mechanical Devices
Patent Analyst-Patent Analytics Hub
Emma Francis is a senior research analyst in the National Patent Analytics Hub in addition to her role as a patent examiner. She received her Master of Biomedical Engineering from the University of Melbourne in 2010. She also has a Bachelor of Systems Engineering with honours and a Bachelor of Computer Science, both from the ANU. She is passionate about big data and the promises that appropriate analysis of this information can provide. Data visualisation of patent statistics is her current focus, working mainly with Tableau Desktop.
Kalpana Narayan
Examiner of Patents – Medical and Mechanical Devices
Kalpana Narayan is a patent examiner working in the area of medical and mechanical devices.  She received a Bachelor of Electronic Engineering with Honours and a Masters of Biomedical Engineering from La Trobe University.  She has also undertaken postgraduate research at La Trobe University working on a novel method of diagnosing DVT before joining IP Australia.
Ariane LeGuen
Examiner of Patents – Medical Devices
Ariane Le Guen is a patent examiner in the medical devices area at IP Australia. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Science in 2008. She worked as a scientist in a diagnostics lab in Pathobiology in the Microbiology department for three years before acquiring her job at IP Australia.
15/04/2016 4:00 PMAn overview of US-funded neural device efforts and how proposals are reviewed Dr Michael Wolfson
Abstract: In a two-part talk, Dr Wolfson will describe the research portfolio he supports at DARPA and share his perspective on how proposals are reviewed by evaluators. His portfolio includes four research programs at DARPA: RE-NET, HAPTIX, ElectRx, and NESD. Each of these programs has been initiated to solve a specific bioengineering challenge and to demonstrate a new capability. Dr Wolfson will discuss the challenges, discoveries, and new insights gained over the development and execution of these 4-5 year, ~US$60M efforts. These programs encompass the entire spectrum of neural device development, from fundamental research into materials, tissue response, and psychophysics through demonstrations in human volunteers of complete systems and their new functional capabilities. These capabilities include restoration of complex motor control, naturalistic somatosensation, vision, and audition, and modulation of organ function.
In the second part of his talk, Dr Wolfson will provide a framework to help investigators understand the motivations and boundaries that guide reviewers of proposals. Specifically, he will cover review methods, evaluation criteria, and ascertaining the objective of a funding agency and the key requirements in any funding opportunity announcement. Dr Wolfson also will provide general advice to any grant-writer on how to improve the quality of submissions. This portion of the presentation is available for download at:
Bio: Michael B. Wolfson is a bioelectronics consultant, supporting organizations whose mission is to invest in foundational device research, development of new neurotechnologies, and translation into proof-of-principle demonstrations. He received a Sc.B. degree in electrical engineering from Brown University in 1995 and a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 2001. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and a member of the Society for Neuroscience.
From 2000 through 2009, Mike was involved in several ventures to develop optical MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) technologies. His experiences at three startups (Nayna Networks, Exajoule, and RedShift Systems) and one multinational corporation (Sharp Laboratories of America) led him to independent consulting (NovelSemi Solutions). From 2009 through 2013, he was a subject matter expert for System Planning Corporation, providing full-time support to the MEMS and neuro-technology programs in DARPA's Microsystems Technology Office. Since 2014, Mike has been an independent consultant supporting customers such as GlaxoSmithKline and DARPA's Biological Technologies Office. His research interests include non-traditional manufacturing technologies and the scalability of neural interfaces.
8/04/2016 4:00 PMFeasibility of a minimally invasive Endovascular Neural Interface for recording cortical activityDr Sam John
Abstract: Intracranial electrode arrays for recording and stimulating brain activity have facilitated major advances in the treatment of neurological conditions. Traditional arrays require direct implantation into the brain via open craniotomy. Invasive surgery is associated with inflammatory tissue responses and can reduce efficacy of stimulation and sensitivity of recording. There is a need for minimally invasive techniques that can record chronic neural activity.
We demonstrate the feasibility of a minimally invasive endovascular neural interface (ENI) that can record brain activity from within a cortical vein. The ENI was fabricated on intracranial stents that are presently used in stroke clot removal. The ENI was delivered into a superficial cortical vein overlying the motor cortex using contrast enhanced angiography and co-axial catheterization in sheep.
The ENI was successfully implanted in sheep and was able to record somatosensory evoked potentials for 190 days. Impedance changes show that incorporation of the ENI into the blood vessel wall occurs within 14 days of implantation and vessel lumen remained open for the duration of the study (190 days). The bandwidth of recording, was similar to an epidural array and marginally inferior to a subdural array. We show that an endovascular neural interface offers a method for safe implantation and chronic neural recordings.
Bio: Sam John is a research fellow in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne. He received his PhD in 2013 from La Trobe University while working on the Bionic eye project at the Bionics Institute. His present research is evaluating the efficacy of an endovascular neural interface that can record and stimulate the brain. He is also working on developing a lower limb brain computer interface that can assist with mobility in people affected by paralysis.
1/04/2016 4:00 PMExercise and physical activity for people with Parkinson's disease:  Challenges in clinical practice and research A/Prof Jennifer McGinley
Abstract: Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common and disabling neurodegenerative condition that is rapidly rising in prevalence.  With medical advances, people with PD live an increasingly long lifespan, but experience difficulty with mobility, activities of daily living and societal participation.
Exercise limits disability progression; people who exercise regularly have lesser decline and better physical function, mobility and quality of life.  Despite these known benefits, most people with PD have sedentary lifestyles and limited adherence to ongoing exercise is a major challenge in lifelong management. 
Health behaviour change interventions can be developed to promote long term exercise and physical activity habits throughout life. Such interventions need to be guided by an understanding of factors associated with exercise and physical activity behaviour in Parkinson’s.  This seminar will present findings from a recent large study of Australians living with PD, and the factors that promote or limit ongoing engagement in a physically active lifestyle. Current challenges in conducting clinical trials of new interventions and implementation will be discussed.
Bio: Associate Professor Jenny McGinley is a physiotherapist and Deputy Head of the Physiotherapy Department, University of Melbourne, Australia.  Her research has focussed on the measurement and understanding of movement and function across the lifespan in healthy people and those with neurological conditions including Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cerebral palsy and autism. She has a particular interest in gait outcome measures for clinical practice and research, as well as clinical trials of interventions to improve functional mobility. 
Her current research aims to understand how people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders can stay active during daily life, and the factors that influence regular physical activity
18/03/2016 4:00 AMInsights into neuropathology using speech Dr Adam Vogel
Abstract: Speech is a potent marker of brain function. It changes with the onset of neurological illness and it declines with disease progression. Certain transient conditions such as depression and fatigue also affect the quality of speech, making it a sensitive marker of central nervous system integrity.
In this context, speech can be used to track disease progression in degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or hereditary ataxia. Similarly, objective measures of speech can assist in monitoring performance in clinical trials where changes in brain health are anticipated.
Bio: Adam is director of the Centre for Neuroscience of Speech at The University of Melbourne. His team works towards improving speech, language and swallowing function in people with progressive and acquired neurological conditions. He is a recipient of an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship, a senior lectureship in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at The University of Melbourne and a Humboldt Fellowship based at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, Tübingen Germany.
He holds clinical degrees in psychology and speech pathology from the University of Queensland and a PhD in behavioural neuroscience from The University of Melbourne. He undertook his early clinical training in the neurodisability service at Great Ormond Street Hospital London and continues to work as consultant speech pathologist for the Friedreich Ataxia Clinic, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the Eastern Cognitive Disorders Clinic, Eastern Health, Melbourne.
11/03/2016 4:00 AMObjective Assessments in Parkinson’s Disease Professor Malcolm Horne
Abstract: In medicine, effective management of disease depends on measurements that accurately relate to the therapies so that those therapies can be effectively deployed to maximise benefit and reduce side effect. 
The Parkinson’s Kinetigraph (PKG) is the first objective measurement for drug responsive symptoms of PD.  This talk will discuss the development, application and commercialisation of the PKG.
Bio: Malcolm Horne is an NHMRC Practitioner Fellow at the
Florey Neurosciences Institute, a consultant Neurologist specialising in Parkinson’s Disease at the St. Vincent’s Hospital and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital. 
His research interests relate to various facets of Parkinson's Disease.  These include studies into the cause of PD including the repair of the brain damaged by PD, measuring PD and the normal and disordered function of dopamine in the brain. 
Current interest also include studies aimed at detecting people at high risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease.  He has developed the Australian Parkinson's Disease registry and the Parkinson’s Kinetigraph.
4/03/2016 4:00 AMEngineering better patient outcomes for visual prostheses Dr Matt Petoe
Abstract: Over the last decade, retinal prostheses ('bionic eyes') have emerged as the most promising technology to restore vision to those with blindness caused by photoreceptor loss.
In an idealised representation of artificial vision, an image captured by the head-mounted video camera is transmitted to the electrode stimulation site on the retina and perceived as a clearly defined set of pixels. The reality of artificial vision is quite different however, with patients reporting perception that is very much unlike their previous sighted experience. In spite of this, it is possible for bionic eye recipients to routinely perform tasks of orientation and mobility, as well as improve performance in activities of daily living.
This talk will discuss some of the challenges faced by bionic eye recipients and discuss ways to identify patient behaviours and tailor post-implantation rehabilitation accordingly.
Bio: Dr Matt Petoe is a biomedical engineer with a keen interest in human perception, neuroscience and clinical research. He is currently working within the Bionic Vision research team to trial the safety and efficacy of a next generation, wide-view bionic eye.
19/02/2016 4:00 PMRestoration of arm function after neurological insultProf Mary Galea,Department of Medicine (Royal Melbourne Hospital), The University of Melbourne
Abstract: Loss of hand function, as may occur after stroke or spinal cord injury, has a severe impact on day-to-day activities and a person’s independence. A vast neural network at both cortical and spinal levels is dedicated to control of hand function, and spared pathways can provide the structural basis for recovery of function after damage to a particular region.
The clinical challenges involve the questions of how to activate the remaining pathways after brain injury, and how to maximise function after spinal cord injury which interrupts the connections between the brain and spinal cord. This talk will cover the physiological basis for recovery of function as well as examples of clinical research programs investigating restoration of function after stroke and spinal cord injury.
Bio: Mary Galea is a physiotherapist and neuroscientist whose research program includes both laboratory-based and clinical projects with the overall theme of control of voluntary movement by the brain, and factors that promote recovery following nervous system damage. She has a particular interest in recovery of arm function, and is currently undertaking projects in patients with stroke, spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.
12/02/2016 4:00 PMA novel balance disorder: Cerebellar Ataxia with Neuropathy and Vestibular Areflexia Syndrome (CANVAS)Dr David Szmulewicz, Neurologist & Neuro-otologist, RVEEH
Abstract: Patients with combined cerebellar and vestibular impairment were first identified in 1979 and were studied as a pathophysiological model. The syndrome of Cerebellar Ataxia with Bilateral Vestibulopathy (CABV) and it’s characteristic oculomotor abnormality, that is, the abnormal visually-enhanced vestibulo-ocular reflex (VVOR) was then subsequently described in 2005 in 4 patients, 3 of whom had a peripheral sensory deficit.
This work defines a new neurological disease that is now called ‘CANVAS’: an acronym for Cerebellar Ataxia with Neuropathy and bilateral Vestibular Areflexia Syndrome. We detail the (A) clinical presentation and evolution, (B) essential oculomotor and vestibular abnormalities, (C) neuropathology, (D) otopathology, (E) anatomical pattern of cerebellar atrophy,  (F) neurophysiological characteristics of the somatosensory impairment, (G) differential diagnoses, (H) apparent genetic basis and (I) a diagnostic quantitative bedside oculomotor test.
Bio: David Szmulewicz is a Neurologist, Neuro-otologist and medical researcher. He holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne. His clinical and research interests include balance disorders that affect the vestibular system, cerebellum and the combination of the two. He is the head of the Balance Disorders & Ataxia Service at the Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital, consults at the Balance Disorders Clinic at Epworth Camberwell, Honorary consultant Neurologist at St Vincent’s Hospital and Lecturer at Melbourne University.
David is lead investigator on research defining a novel ataxia – Cerebellar Ataxia with Neuropathy and Vestibular Areflexia Syndrome (CANVAS) and is co-director of The Australian Temporal Bone Bank.
5/02/2016 4:00 PMArgus II Retinal Chip Implant - Endoscopic Insights on the Bionic EyeDr Flavio Rezende,Retinal Surgeon, Department of Ophthalmology, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, Canada
Abstract: The presentation will describe the current Argus II retinal chip implant surgical technique, its potential complications and limitations. It will highlight as well some insights on vitreoretinal endoscopic imaging of this technique.
Bio: Dr Flavio Rezende is a reputed retinal surgeon from the Department of Ophthalmology at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.  He secured a Ph.D. in Science from São Paulo Federal University (Brazil) after completing his fellowships in vitreoretinal surgery and ocular pathology at the Department of Ophthalmology, McGill University (Canada). Flavio went on to pursue post-doctoral studies in Ophthalmology at Université de Montréal, where he became Chief of Retinal Service in the Department of Ophthalmology and serves as associate professor. In addition to instruction mandates in prestigious institutions such as Harvard Medical School and Pontifícia Universidade Católica in Rio de Janeiro, Flavio garners experience with a dozen clinical trials and research projects, and has many awards, namely 5 ASRS Rhett Buckler Awards. He has co-published well over 50 books, papers, and abstracts covering various aspects of retinal surgery. Dr. Rezende is the 1st surgeon to perform a bionic retinal implant in Quebec, and the 2nd in Canada.
29/01/2016 4:00 PMReverse Engineering the Brain: Computer Modelling of Neural CircuitsDr Dean Freestone, University of Melbourne
Abstract: This presentation is focused on methods for reverse engineering the brain. In this talk, I will discuss various approaches for constructing computer models of neural circuits using experimental and clinical data. The computer models describe data recorded at the local field potential or electroencephalogram scale, and are therefore coarse grain approximations of neural activity. I will show examples of how we can use various modelling approaches to decode the mechanisms of epileptic seizures and movement related activity from neural signals.
Bio: Dean has a Bachelor of Engineering from La Trobe University, where he won the Tad Szental Prize for the best engineering final year student and the Hooper Memorial Prize for best final year project, under the supervision of Graeme Rathbone. He then completed a PhD in Engineering at the University of Melbourne in 2012, under the supervision of David Grayden, Tony Burkitt, Levin Kuhlamnn and Mark Cook. His postgraduate work on epileptic seizure prediction won the John Melvin Memorial Scholarship for the best PhD in Engineering and the Chancellor’s Prize for PhD Excellence. Dean has recently returned from Liam Paninski’s group at Columbia University, New York, where he was the 2014 Victorian Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow. He has now joined the MDHS Faculty at the University of Melbourne and is working in the Department of Medicine at the St. Vincent’s Hospital where he will continue to make inroads into one of the grand challenges in science today: reverse engineering the human brain.
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