Neurobionics research program receives funding boost – Bionics Institute

Neurobionics research program receives funding boost


The Colonial Foundation is a philanthropic organisation that “aims to make a positive contribution to society by supporting organisations that work to find solutions for those in need or improve the quality of community life”.


Based on the wealth of knowledge gained from 25 years of cochlear implant research and development, the Bionics Institute is actively expanding its Neurobionics research program. The research focuses on the development of devices to treat a range of central nervous system disorders that have not responded to other treatments. This program recently received a welcome boost from The Colonial Foundation with their support of $862,000 over three years.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS), which delivers targeted electrical impulses to the brain through surgically implanted electrodes, has been used to control tremor in people with Parkinson’s disease for many years. The application of DBS to treat other neurological disorders and certain psychiatric conditions is rapidly expanding.

While there are DBS devices currently available on the market, there is room for significant improvement and a novel approach based on the Institute’s extensive experience in the development of bionic devices is currently being investigated. In addition to our established interdisciplinary and innovative research culture, our long established industry links and clinical collaborations make development of a new DBS system possible.

Our aim is to develop an advanced DBS system for use in multiple neurological and mental health disorders for which no other effective treatments are available. Such disorders include but are not limited to:

  • psychiatric disorders (obsessive-compulsive disorder, severe depression)

  • movement disorders (Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor)

  • other disabling conditions (chronic pain, epilepsy)

The three year partnership between the Colonial Foundation and the Institute will allow key, preclinical studies of DBS systems to be carried out, and will accelerate the clinical application of an advanced implantable stimulator system for use in DBS. The funds will be used to support a combination of research staff, PhD students, equipment and direct project costs.

These studies will:

  • evaluate patients with existing DBS devices in order to optimise device settings and provide immediate clinical benefits;

  • obtain essential scientific data on which the detailed design of our innovative DBS system will be based;

  • develop and test prototype electrode arrays and innovative tools for the precise and safe positioning of electrodes in appropriately targeted regions of the brain; and

  • develop innovative stimulation techniques that maximise therapeutic efficacy while minimising potential adverse side-effects.

The funds provided by the Colonial Foundation form a crucial part of our broader 5 year DBS development program with an estimated total cost of $8.5M.

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