Robert K. Shepherd

B.Sc, Dip. Ed, Ph.D.

Director, Bionics Institute

Professor of Medical Bionics, University of Melbourne 

P: +61 3 9667 7513
F: +61 3 9667 7518

Professor Rob Shepherd is the Head of the Medical Bionics Department at the University of Melbourne. In the 1980’s he led the preclinical team that demonstrated the safety and efficacy of Cochlear's bionic ear in both adults and children, and more recently his team developed a prototype bionic eye as part of an Australia-wide collaboration – Bionic Vision Australia – to develop a commercial bionic eye. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed papers, given 90 invited international keynote conference presentations, received over $90M of research funding as a chief investigator. Prof Shepherd has overseen the expansion of the Bionic Ear Institute into the Bionics Institute, broadening its research portfolio to include retinal prostheses, neurobionics - a platform technology for diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and the stimulation of visceral nerves, and introducing a contract research organisation specialising in in vitro and in vivo R&D associated with neural prostheses and drug delivery technologies. In 2014 he was awarded the Garnett Passe Medal at the Royal Society of Medicine, London for his contributions to Otolaryngology and in 2015 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and a member of Knowledge Nation 100.

Listen to Prof Shepherd's podcast on Medical Bionics, courtesy of Melbourne University Up Close.

Research fields of interest

  • Neural prostheses and their therapeutic applications

  • Neurophysiological and histopathological effects of neural stimulators with particular emphasis on cochlear implant

  • Rescuing and regenerating auditory neurons

  • Neurophysiology and morphology of the auditory system

  • Pathophysiology of ototoxicity

  • Mammalian cochlear anatomy

  • Drug delivery systems

  • Bionic vision



1996-2001       Garnett Passe & Rodney Williams Senior Research Fellow
2003-2006       Wagstaff Fellow in Otology, Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital
2013               The Sir Hugh Devine Lecture, The University of Melbourne/St Vincent’s Hospital
2013               Finalist, Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
2014               The Garnett Passe Memorial Lecture and the Garnett Passe Medal,
                      The Royal Society of Medicine, London, UK
2015               Elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences
2015               Selected as one of Australia’s 100 leaders who create and apply knowledge by
                      the Knowledge Society and the Office of the Chief Scientist



  1. Wade, S.A., Fallon, J.B., Wise, A.K., Shepherd, R.K., James, N. & Stoddart, P.R. Measurement of Forces at the Tip of a Cochlear Implant during Insertion, IEEE Trans Biomed Eng (in press). 

  2. Saunders, A.L., Williams, C.E., Heriot, W., W.H., Briggs, R., Yeoh, J., Nayagam, D.A.X., McCombe, M., Villalobos, J., Burns, O., Luu, C.D., Ayton, L.N., McPhedran, M., Opie, N.L., McGowan, C., Shepherd, R.K., Guymer, R. & Allen, P.J. Development of a surgical procedure for implantation of a prototype suprachoroidal retinal prosthesis, Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology (in press).

  3. Fallon, J.B., Shepherd, R.K. & Irvine, D.R.F.  Effects of chronic cochlear electrical stimulation after an extended period of profound deafness on primary auditory cortex organization in cats.  Eur J Neurosci (in press).

  4. Newbold, C., Richardson, R., Stathopoulos, D., Seligman, P., Millard, R., Shepherd, R.K. & Cowan, R. Impedance changes in chronically implanted and stimulated cochlear implant electrodes. Cochlear Implants International (in press). 

  5. Irving, S., Trotter, M.I., Fallon, J.B., Millard, R.E., Shepherd, R.K. & Wise, A.K. Cochlear implantation for chronic electrical stimulation in the mouse. Hear Res. 306: 37-45, 2013.

  6. John, S.E., Shivdasani, M.N., Williams, C.E., Morley, J.W., Shepherd R.K., Rathbone, G.D. & Fallon, J.B. Suprachoroidal electrical stimulation: Effect of stimulus pulse parameters on visual cortical response. J Neural Eng. 10: e56011, 2013.

  7. Shepherd, R. K., Shivdasani, M. N., Nayagam, D. A. X., Williams, C. E. & Blamey, P. J. Visual prostheses for the blind. Trends in Biotechnology. 31: 562-571, 2013.

  8. Villalobos, J., Nayagam, D.A.X., Allen, P.J., McKelvie, P., Luu, C.D., Ayton, L.N., Saunders, A.L., McPhedran, M., Basa, M., McGowan, C.C., Shepherd, R.K. & Williams, C.A. A wide-field suprachoroidal retinal prosthesis is stable and well tolerated following chronic implantation. Inv Ophth Vis Sci. 54: 3751-3762, 2013.

  9. Landry, T.G., Fallon, J.B., Wise, A.K. & Shepherd, R.K. Chronic neurotrophin delivery promotes ectopic neurite growth from the spiral ganglion of deafened cochleae without compromising the spatial selectivity of cochlear implants. J Comp Neurol. 521: 2818-2832, 2013.

  10. Atkinson, P.L., Wise, A.K., Flynn, B.O., Nayagam, B.A., Hume, C.R., O’Leary, Shepherd, R.K. & Richardson, R.T.  Neurotrophin gene therapy for sustained neural preservation after deafness.  PLoS One. 7: e52338, 2012.

See more publications by Robert Shepherd in PubMed and ResearchGate.

Invited presentations

  1. “An overview of Medical Bionics” - JIPMER Scientific Society, Pondicherry, India 9/12/13.
  2. “New Developments in Medical Bionics and their Potential Applications” – ATSE Health Technology Forum Seminar, Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering AGM, Adelaide, 22/11/13.
  3. The 2013 Sir Hugh Devine Oration “From the ear to eye – A short distance but a long journey” – St Vincent’s Surgical Forum 2013, Melbourne 20/8/13.
  4. “Medical Bionics: Neural interfaces for damaged nerves” – 2013 Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research, Queenstown, New Zealand, August 24–28, 2013.
  5. “Visual prostheses: a progress report for the CIAP community” – CIAP 2013, Lake Tahoe, USA, July 2013.
  6. “Neural prostheses: practical applications in neuroscience” – Centre for Brain Research Seminar, Auckland, New Zealand, 27/6/13.
  7. “Research and Clinical Applications of Medical Bionics” – DARPA Neural Interfaces Symposium, Melbourne, 21/5/13.
  8. “Sensory prostheses: Practical applications in neuroscience” - University of Western Sydney Sensory Neuroscience Symposium, 10/12/12.
  9. “Innovation in medicine: medical bionics as a case study” The Power of Innovation: New South Wales Health Symposium, Sydney, October 19, 2012.  
  10. “The path to success of the cochlear implant” International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society, Banff, Alberta, Canada, September 9-12, 2012.

Video presentations

The Bionic Eye Prototype 




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