A/Prof Rachael Richardson is a Senior Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute, and Associate Professor in the Medical Bionics Department, University of Melbourne. She has a background in molecular biology (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) and hearing science (Bionics Institute).

The main goal of Rachael’s research is to develop innovative strategies to improve the spatio-temporal precision of cochlear implants. A fundamental limitation of cochlear implants is the spread of electrical current which means that nerves in one part of the cochlea can be activated by more than one electrode. Rachael is working on using light to activate the hearing nerve as light can be focused for more precise activation. The main goal is to determine whether light stimulation alone or in combination with electrical stimulation can significantly improve the precision of nerve activation in the cochlea and whether this will result in a meaningful difference to the way people hear sound.

Another major research focus is protecting and restoring hearing. Rachael is employing gene therapy and nano-technology-inspired drug delivery techniques to introduce therapeutics into the cochlea for hair cell regeneration or nerve survival and repair. These techniques have the potential to improve the outcomes achieved with cochlear implantation or even restore hearing by repopulating the damaged sensory region of the cochlea with new cells. Rachael is interested in drug delivery techniques, pharmacokinetics and functional assessment in order to help drug discoveries for hearing protection and restoration move towards clinical translation.

A/Prof Richardson has authored 47 peer-reviewed scientific papers, 3 book chapters and numerous conference presentations, including 10 as invited speaker. She has been the principal investigator on 11 major Australian and international project grants including NHMRC, and co-investigator on a further 4 major project grants, including the US Department of Defense, totaling over 4.2 million dollars. She also works closely with industry on contract research projects. Rachael collaborates with research leaders and clinicians from University of Washington, Swinburne University, University of Melbourne and University of Wollongong.

Rachael has been the primary or co-supervisor of 8 PhD/ Masters students, 4 honours students, 5 undergraduate research opportunity program students/interns and 2 advanced medical science students. Many of these students have won multiple awards and recognition for their research. Rachael is currently accepting new students.

E: [email protected]

Research projects


Restoring hearing

Student projects

Optogenetics for precise neural stimulation

Reversible silencing of the cochlear

Investigating the body's response, including inflammation and fouling, to implanted materials and devices and its effect on their efficacy

Recent publications

  1. Richardson, R. T., M. R. Ibbotson, A. C. Thompson, A. K. Wise, and J. B. Fallon. 2020. Optical stimulation of neural tissue. Healthcare Technology Letters. 7(3): 58-65. doi: 1049/htl.2019.0114. Full Text
  2. Hart, W., R. Richardson, T. Kameneva, A. Thompson, A. K. Wise, J. B. Fallon, P. R. Stoddart, and K. Needham. 2020. Combined optogenetic and electrical stimulation of auditory neurons increases effective stimulation frequency - An in vitro study. Journal of Neural Engineering. 17(1): 016069. doi: 1088/1741-2552/ab6a68.

  3. Ma, Y., C. Cortez-Jugo, J. Li, Z. Lin, R. T. Richardson, Y. Han, J. Zhou, M. Bjornmalm, O. M. Feeney, Q. Z. Zhong, C. J. H. Porter, A. K. Wise, and F. Caruso. 2019. Engineering Biocoatings To Prolong Drug Release from Supraparticles. Biomacromolecules. 20(9): 3425-3434. doi: 1021/acs.biomac.9b00710.

  4. Ma, Y., A. K. Wise, R. K. Shepherd, and R. T. Richardson. 2019. New molecular therapies for the treatment of hearing loss. Pharmacology & therapeutics: pii: S0163-7528(0119)30077-30074. doi: 1016/j.pharmthera.2019.05.003. Full Text

  5. Richardson, R. T., Q. Y. Hu, F. Shi, T. Nguyen, J. B. Fallon, B. O. Flynn, and A. K. Wise. 2019. Pharmacokinetics and tissue distribution of neurotrophin 3 after intracochlear delivery. Journal of controlled release : official journal of the Controlled Release Society. 299: 53-63. doi: 1016/j.jconrel.2019.02.018.

  6. Ma, Y., M. Björnmalm, A. K. Wise, C. Cortez-Jugo, E. Revalor, Y. Ju, O. M. Feeney, R. T. Richardson, E. Hanssen, R. K. Shepherd, C. J. H. Porter, and F. Caruso. 2018. Gel-Mediated Electrospray Assembly of Silica Supraparticles for Sustained Drug Delivery. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. 10(37): 31019-31031. doi: 1021/acsami.8b10415. Full Text

  7. Richardson, R. T., A. C. Thompson, A. K. Wise, and K. Needham. 2017. Challenges for the application of optical stimulation in the cochlea for the study and treatment of hearing loss. Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy. 17(2): 213-223. doi: 10.1080/14712598.2017.1271870. Full Text

  8. Wise, A. K., B. O. Flynn, P. J. Atkinson, J. B. Fallon, M. Nicholson, and R. Richardson. 2015. Regeneration of cochlear hair cells with Atoh1 gene therapy after noise-induced hearing loss Journal of Regenerative Medicine. 4(1): doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.4172/2325-9620.1000121. Full Text

  9. Richardson, R. T., and P. J. Atkinson. 2015. Atoh1 gene therapy in the cochlea for hair cell regeneration. Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy. 15(3): 417-30.

  10. Newbold, C., S. Mergen, R. Richardson, P. Seligman, R. Millard, R. Cowan, and R. Shepherd. 2014. Impedance changes in chronically implanted and stimulated cochlear implant electrodes. Cochlear Implants International. 15(4): 191-9.

See more publications by Rachael Richardson in PubMed and Google Scholar

Further information

Click here to read Rachael's story.