Our history

Professor Graeme Clark is one of Australia’s greatest and inspirational scientists. He aspired to help deaf people from a young age. The child of a deaf father, he saw first-hand the hardship and isolation that deafness can cause. He completed medical training and was working as an ear surgeon in Melbourne in the 1960s when he began researching the possibility of an electronic, implantable hearing device.

During the 1970s, Professor Clark and his team conducted pioneering research in the University of Melbourne’s Department of Otolaryngology. The prototype multiple-electrode cochlear implant (‘bionic ear’) was implanted in the first adult at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in 1978.

In 1986, Professor Graeme Clark founded the Bionic Ear Institute to ensure cochlear implant and hearing research continued in an independent and multi-disciplinary environment.

Under the directorship of Professor Rob Shepherd (2005 – 2017), we changed our name to the Bionics Institute in 2011 to reflect the breadth of our work across many conditions besides deafness.

Professor Shepherd was one of the original members of the University of Melbourne team that created the cochlear implant, and was responsible for the pre-clinical safety and efficacy studies that enabled FDA approval for the device in 1985. He drove the expansion of our research into different areas of clinical need including blindness and inflammatory bowel disease.

We have come a long way in three decades, with the Australian cochlear implant now providing the gift of hearing to 350,000 people in more than 120 countries. We continue to investigate ways to improve and refine this technology to provide greater benefits for recipients including deaf babies and children. In addition to our extensive program of hearing research, our work aims to develop bionic technologies to assist people with blindness, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease and stroke.

In 2017, Mr Robert Klupacs was appointed CEO of the Bionics Institute. With over 30 years of experience in research commercialisation and bio-technology transfer, Robert is driving an increased focus on commercialisation opportunities and diversification of the institute’s funding streams. This renewed focus will enable more rapid translation of our research into devices and products that make a tangible difference to the quality of life of patients around the world.

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