David Nayagam is a Senior Research Fellow and Team Leader at the Bionics Institute applying a focussed market-driven approach to address unmet patient needs. David works closely with surgeons, engineers, pathologists, statisticians, clinicians and a range of scientific experts to develop novel implantable medical devices and biomaterials for a range of clinical indications.

After graduating from the University of Melbourne with a double degree in electrical engineering and neuroscience, he completed a PhD using electrophysiology and computer-aided histology to study the auditory brainstem. His seminal studies uncovered new mechanisms and circuits, including fast inhibitory pathways which play an important role in sound processing. This work was published in leading neuroscience journals and was supervised by A/Prof Tony Paolini, Dr Janine Clarey, Prof Tony Burkitt and Prof Graeme Clark.

Subsequently, David was recruited by the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), supervised by Prof Graeme Clark and Prof Gordon Wallace, where he established the Institute’s Eric Bauer laboratory within St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. During this time he led a team of polymer-chemists, pathologists, engineers and scientists to investigate the biocompatibility of chronically-implanted novel polymer biomaterials. Importantly, his team performed a detailed biocompatibility implant study of novel carbon nanotube structures embedded in a flexible polymer substrate. This work was published in high ranking nanomaterials journal. As part of his contribution to ACES, David also designed a hi-fidelity thin-film cochlear implant electrode prototype which was further developed and commercialised by the company ‘NeuroNexus’.

In 2009, David commenced working on a world’s first suprachoroidal retinal prosthesis (‘Bionic Eye’) as part of the Institute’s involvement in the federally funded Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) consortia (led by Prof Rob Shepherd). David played multiple roles within the Bionic Eye project ranging from: design concepts and prototype iteration; to intricate feasibility and efficacy studies; to clinical device development; manufacturing handover; and surgical development studies. He was primarily responsible for leading a large multi-disciplinary team to perform pre-clinical safety studies of the bionic eye electrodes and implantable stimulator for both our first and second generation devices (for which he is a co-inventor). The Bionic Eye results have been published in a many scientific journals and have featured in numerous media stories around the world. The Bionic Eye is currently undergoing commercialisation by our industry partner, Bionic Vision Technologies, with the aim of restoring sight to patients with hereditary eye disease such as retinitis pigmentosa. David’s current role is to ensure implant functionality and safety during our ongoing clinical trials and assist with associated psychophysics studies.

From 2014, David has been the team leader for the ‘Minimally-Invasive Retinal-degeneration Arrestor’ (MIRA) project, which is a therapeutic eye implant developed in collaboration with clinical partners at the Centre for Eye Research Australia. With support from Bionic Vision Technologies (BVT) alongside an NHMRC ‘Excellence Award’-winning Development Grant, the team are working towards a first-in-human trial of this clinically promising innovation which aims to maintain eyesight in patients with degenerative vision loss.

David is involved in several other projects including leading histopathology safety studies for the Institute’s EpiMinder device (led by A/Prof Chris Williams) as well as stem cell therapies for the restoration of the auditory nerve following deafness, led by his wife, A/Prof Bryony Nayagam (University of Melbourne). David has also provided contract research consultancy for Cochlear P/L, Monash Vision Group and other commercial entities.

In addition to scientific research, David was an astronaut candidate with the European Space Agency (ESA; 2008-09 intake). After successfully completing a year of exhaustive aptitude, psychological, medical and fitness screening tests, held in several European cities, he was one of 22 finalists interviewed for the position of European Astronaut from an international pool of 8,413 qualified applicants. With final decisions influenced by national investment agreements, David was unsuccessful at this last stage. Following the experience, he was invited by Senator Kim Carr to join Australia’s first Space Council, to explore and define a vision for the Australian civil space industry. The Space Industry Innovation Council provided high-level ministerial advice during the development of the nation’s inaugural Space Policy; this formed the policy foundation for the Australian Space Agency.

David is an editor of the top-ranked journal, ‘Trends in Neuroscience’, and a moderator of the most popular online scientific forum ‘/r/science’ (reddit.com; 24.5 million subscribers). His other activities have included student supervision, membership of hospital ethics committee, public and scientific presentations of research outcomes, and peer-review. Since 2015, David has been the ‘science commentator’ for the ABC 774 radio show ‘Evenings’ where he discusses a range of scientific topics and interviews eminent scientists (including a Nobel Prize winner).

Outside of work, David is a hang glider pilot, PADI rescue diver, lead guitarist (in a tragically under-appreciated Melbourne band), enjoys photography and has pursued independent travel to over 50 countries plus remote off-road touring with his wife and kids within Australia. He speaks conversational Spanish and basic Russian.

David holds honorary clinical and research appointments at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and the University of Melbourne Department of Pathology.

E: [email protected]

Research projects

Implant to delay blindness

Recent Publications

  1. Shivdasani, M. N., M. Evans, O. Burns, J. Yeoh, P. J. Allen, D. Nayagam, J. Villalobos, C. J. Abbott, C. D. Luu, N. L. Opie, A. Sabu, A. L. Saunders, M. McPhedran, L. Cardamone, C. McGowan, V. Maxim, R. A. Williams, K. Fox, R. Cicione, D. J. Garrett, A. Ahnood, K. Ganesan, H. Meffin, A. N. Burkitt, S. Prawer, C. E. Williams, and R. K. Shepherd. 2020. In vivo feasibility of epiretinal stimulation using ultrananocrystalline diamond electrodes. Journal of Neural Engineering: [epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1088/1741-2552/aba560.

  2. Thien, P. C., R. Millard, S. B. Epp, and D. A. X. Nayagam. 2018. A Flexible Wireless System for Preclinical Evaluation of Retinal Prosthesis. Sensors and Materials. 30(2): 269 - 286. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.18494/SAM.2018.1651. Full Text

  3. Shepherd, R. K., J. Villalobos, O. Burns, and D. Nayagam. 2018. The development of neural stimulators: a review of preclinical safety and efficacy studies. Journal of Neural Engineering. 15(4): 041004. doi: 10.1088/1741-2552/aac43c. Full Text

  4. Abbott, C. J., D. A. X. Nayagam, C. D. Luu, S. B. Epp, R. A. Williams, C. M. Salinas-LaRosa, J. Villalobos, C. McGowan, M. N. Shivdasani, O. Burns, J. Leavens, J. Yeoh, A. A. Brandli, P. C. Thien, J. Zhou, H. Feng, C. E. Williams, R. K. Shepherd, and P. J. Allen. 2018. Safety Studies for a 44-Channel Suprachoroidal Retinal Prosthesis: A Chronic Passive Study. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 59(3): 1410-1424. doi: 10.1167/iovs.17-23086. Full Text

  5. Apollo, N. V., J. Jiang, W. Cheung, S. Baquier, A. Lai, A. Mirebedini, J. Foroughi, G. G. Wallace, M. N. Shivdasani, S. Prawer, S. Chen, R. Williams, M. J. Cook, D. A. X. Nayagam, and D. J. Garrett. 2017. Development and Characterization of a Sucrose Microneedle Neural Electrode Delivery System. Advanced Biosystems: 1700187. doi: 10.1002/adbi.201700187. Full Text

  6. Benovitski, Y. B., A. Lai, C. C. McGowan, O. Burns, V. Maxim, D. A. X. Nayagam, R. Millard, G. D. Rathbone, M. A. le Chevoir, R. A. Williams, D. B. Grayden, C. N. May, M. Murphy, W. J. D'Souza, M. J. Cook, and C. E. Williams. 2017. Ring and peg electrodes for minimally-Invasive and long-term sub-scalp EEG recordings. Epilepsy Research. 135: 29-37. doi: 10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2017.06.003. Full Text

  7. Garrett, D. J., A. L. Saunders, C. McGowan, J. Specks, K. Ganesan, H. Meffin, R. A. Williams, and D. A. Nayagam. 2016. In vivo biocompatibility of boron doped and nitrogen included conductive-diamond for use in medical implants. Journal of biomedical materials research. Part B, Applied biomaterials. 104(1): 19-26. doi: 10.1002/jbm.b.33331. Full Text

  8. Fox, K., H. Meffin, O. Burns, C. J. Abbott, P. J. Allen, N. L. Opie, C. McGowan, J. Yeoh, A. Ahnood, C. D. Luu, R. Cicione, A. L. Saunders, M. McPhedran, L. Cardamone, J. Villalobos, D. J. Garrett, D. A. Nayagam, N. V. Apollo, K. Ganesan, M. N. Shivdasani, A. Stacey, M. Escudie, S. Lichter, R. K. Shepherd, and S. Prawer. 2016. Development of a Magnetic Attachment Method for Bionic Eye Applications. Artificial Organs. 40(3): E12-24. doi: 10.1111/aor.12582.

  9. Ahnood, A., K. E. Fox, N. V. Apollo, A. Lohrmann, D. J. Garrett, D. A. Nayagam, T. Karle, A. Stacey, K. M. Abberton, W. A. Morrison, A. Blakers, and S. Prawer. 2016. Diamond encapsulated photovoltaics for transdermal power delivery. Biosensors and Bioelectronics. 77: 589-597. doi: 10.1016/j.bios.2015.10.022. Full Text

  10. Spencer, M. J., D. A. Nayagam, J. C. Clarey, A. G. Paolini, H. Meffin, A. N. Burkitt, and D. B. Grayden. 2015. Broadband Onset Inhibition Can Suppress Spectral Splatter in the Auditory Brainstem. PLoS ONE. 10(5): e0126500. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126500. Full Text

Further information

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