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Professor Mark Cook AO

Professor Mark Cook (MBBS, MD) is a leading neurologist at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Chair of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, and Director of the Graeme Clark Institute, who has been collaborating with our epilepsy team since 2002.

It is estimated that over 250,000 Australians are living with epilepsy, and approximately three percent of people will experience a seizure at some point in their lives. Professor Mark Cook AO is acutely aware of the major drawbacks of current measures to diagnose patients. At present, a diagnosis of epilepsy is determined from brain activity recordings (EEG) but this is impractical for more than a day or two and often requires in-hospital stays which can be expensive. Furthermore, there are less than fifty epilepsy monitoring beds available in the whole of Australia, making the entire diagnostic process very frustrating for patients and clinicians. Seizures that may be happening infrequently are still very disabling and possibly life threatening. However, it’s hard to capture these events with the systems we have currently, so Professor Cook is often unable to diagnose this condition accurately.

Professor Cook explains that cardiologists have been able to dramatically improve people’s lives with the invention of the implantable loop recorder that allowed clinicians to monitor patients’ heart rhythms over long periods of time. The device was designed to provide real-time insights into heart conditions, and changed this area of medicine forever.

Professor Cook and the epilepsy team at the Bionics Institute led by A/Prof Chris Williams hope to bring the same type of revolution to epilepsy through the invention of the Minder™ device. This device has been designed to accurately monitor brain activity and detect a patient’s seizures outside of a hospital environment, allowing patients to engage in normal everyday activities. The device will also allow for a more tailored approach to managing drug therapies.

Image: A/Prof Chris Williams (L) and Prof Mark Cook

Working with the research team at the Bionics Institute has been a life changing experience for me. Having the opportunity to collaborate with specialists in their respective fields, outside of biological science with expertise in medical technologies and materials, has been pivotal in the development of electric medicine. The Institute is leading the way in medical bionics research in Australia, in fact the entire world, and has been in this space since the very start. The perspective that the team at the Institute provides is incredibly insightful and radically different. It makes me think about how I look at things in a totally different way. As collaborators we have developed radical new therapies for complex neurological illnesses. For a long time the Institute has focussed on hearing, but now its reach has extended to many areas of human health, particularly in the area of brain disease. This is the most exciting period of development that I have come across or that I have lived through – it’s the start of a brand new era in medicine. Professor Mark Cook

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