Brain researchers major winners at Bionics Challenge

15 November 2022



The University of Queensland's Queensland Brain Institute researchers will help develop some of Australia’s most exciting medical bionic discoveries after being announced as major winners at this year’s Bionics Challenge.

Dr Susannah Tye, Professor Pankaj Sah, Professor Peter Silburn, Dr Dhanisha Jhaveri and Dr Stephane Dufau will share in $300,000 of prizes and mentorship to help change the lives of those impacted by road trauma, related disabilities and chronic disease.

The team led by Dr Tye is looking at brain stimulation to reduce the risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide and dementia for people living with traumatic brain injury.

Meanwhile, Dr Jhaveri and Dr Dufau are part of a team using smart watches to monitor brain changes to help reduce the incidence of epilepsy.

Jump-starting brain discoveries

Bionics Challenge 2022 is a unique Queensland-led competition designed to fast-track bionic healthcare solutions. 

Delivered in partnership with the Motor Accident Insurance Commission, Bionics Challenge 2022 hosted by Bionics Queensland has awarded $200,000 in major category prizes and a total of $40,000 to a suite of promising, early-stage bionic innovation teams. In addition, a $30,000 National Bionics Innovation Prize plus expert advice on funds attraction has been awarded courtesy of Morgans Financial Limited.

Among the outstanding line-up of winners are life-changing devices and innovations that improve bionic mobility and rehabilitation technologies, diagnostic devices and neurobionic treatments for traumatic brain injury and stress-induced epilepsy, plus bionic implants that accelerate healing and regeneration of damaged nerves.

Bionics Queensland CEO and Challenge Founder, Dr Robyn Stokes said the 2022 Challenge has attracted some of the nation’s brightest minds and innovators who are committed to redefining the future of medical technology and human bionics for those living with road trauma.

“Our Bionics Challenge sees start-ups, R&D leaders and everyday innovators work ‘head-to-head’ with patients and end-users of bionic devices to jump-start new discoveries and improve on existing solutions to transform lives,” said Dr Stokes.

“Our Challenge prizes provide ambitious medtech innovators with a healthy ‘kickstart’ to fund their innovations and help propel them to market, accelerating the development of a new array of life-changing innovations for accident survivors and so many others awaiting new discoveries,” she said.

Reducing the toll of trauma

Queensland’s Insurance Commissioner, Mr Neil Singleton, said that the Bionics Challenge gives renewed hope and insights to current and future solutions to Australians living with road trauma, including serious injuries, amputations, traumatic brain injury or loss of vital functions as a result of road crashes.

“As the regulator of the Queensland CTP scheme, which provides compensation to those injured in road crashes through no fault of their own, we are proud supporters of breakthrough medical devices, treatments and technological discoveries that have the potential to reduce the mental and physical toll of road trauma and assist Queenslanders impacted by an array of related health conditions,” he said.

Executive Chairman of Morgans, Brian Sheahan, said his firm is proud to support the National Bionics Innovation Prize and is equally excited to provide one-on-one mentorship to Bionics Challenge winners on capital management and funds attraction to help propel their innovations to market.

“We have a strong, ongoing focus on emerging medtech technologies including bionic devices, treatments, and technologies. We are already working with Australia’s leading medical bionic firms, and we will continue to support the industry’s emerging innovators.

“In the coming weeks, we will also work directly with Bionics Challenge 2022 winners and finalists through the Bionics Challenge Deeptech Mentoring Program to equip them with a range of insights on finance and capital raising,” he said.


Major Category Prize Winners of the Bionics Challenge 2022 

Project Title: Intelligent closed-loop neuromodulation system
Concept: A system that will enable adjustable, situation-specific brain stimulation for individuals impacted by traumatic brain injury with stimulation expected to reduce related risks of depression, PTSD, suicide, and dementia.
Project Leader: Dr Susannah Tye, Queensland Brain Institute
Team: Prof. Michael Berk, Prof. Abbas Kouzani, Prof. Pankaj Sah and Prof. Peter Silburn
Prize: $70,000  

Project Title: Pairing smart garments and AI for personalised rehabilitation
Concept: ‘Smarty Pants’ - New sensor-embedded smart garments that remove the guesswork for clinical practitioners, giving them real-time biofeedback on biomarkers to inform personalised rehabilitation exercises.
Project Leader: Bradley Cornish, Griffith University Gold Coast
Team: Bradley Cornish, Dr Claudio Pizzolato, Matthew Worsey, and Nathan Lyons
Prize: $40,000  

Project Title: Smart watch enhancements to monitor stress-induced neurobiological and physiological changes that trigger epilepsy
Concept: The use of smartwatch devices to record stress-induced physiological and brain rhythm changes in people living with epilepsy to help reduce the incidence of epilepsy, including seizures aligned to road accident trauma.
Project Leader: Professor Aileen McGonigal, Mater Hospital Brisbane
Team: Dr Dhanisha Jhaveri, Dr Stephane Dufau, Dr Chris Dougherty
Prize: $40,000  

Project Title: Minimising the effects of apathy on rehabilitation of road accident survivors: A novel home-based rehabilitation system for traumatic brain injury patients
Concept: A new-to-the-world device to provide an objective and comprehensive measure of apathy to complement physical rehabilitation exercise and VR/AR therapy during rehabilitation. This device is expected to dramatically improve the take-up and sustained use of rehabilitation technologies by road accident survivors.
Project Leader: Dr Shou-Han Zhou, James Cook University Townsville
Team: Dr Liza van Eijk, Dr Jonathon Connor, Dr Sara Brice, Dr Kenji Doma, Dr Omer Shareef
Prize: $25,000  

Project Title: NuroMat – a game-changer in wound repair and nerve regeneration for motor accident injuries
Concept: A liquid scaffold that forms an adhesive matrix that matches the geometry of skin defects, providing a bridge to enable wound closure, reduce scar formation and promote nerve regeneration
Project Leader: Dr Babak Bagheri, Gold Coast
Team: Pouyan Bagheri, Yeu Chun Kim, Sachin Subhash Surwase
Prize: $25,000  

Early-Stage Bionic Innovation Winners of the Bionics Challenge 2022 

Project Title: Accelerating access to innovative E-stim Treatments for spinal cord injury (SCI) and paralysis
Concept: A new and improved E-stimulation therapy for people impacted by neurological trauma and spinal cord injuries and a suite of innovative e-stimulation training and technology modules
Project Leader: Dr Vanesa Bochkezanian, CQ University Australia
Team: Dr Antonio Padilha Lanari Bo, Dr Camila Quel de Oliveira, Leanne O’ Neill, Lana Popovic Maneski
Prize: $20,000  

Project Title: Robotics, AI and co-design with patients to enhance neurorehabilitation and functional recovery from brain and spinal cord injury (SCI)
Concept: Leveraging robotics, artificial intelligence, neuromechanical modelling and a co-design/co-creation framework to deliver a highly personalised approach to exoskeleton assistance and related gait training for SCI patients.
Project Leader: Dr Alejandro Melendez-Calderon, University of Queensland
Team: Dr Camila Shirota, Dr Denny Giguere
Prize: $20,000


National Bionics Innovation Prize Winner in the Bionics Challenge 2022

Project Title: Life-Changing Injectable Micro-Implants set to Control Spasticity and Pain
Concept: Micro-implants that do not require invasive surgery will deliver real-time controllable relief from muscle spasticity and return functional muscle control to people with traumatic brain and spinal injuries - reducing pain, increasing limb mobility and independence, removing the need for repeated Botox injections or permanent nerve severing surgery.
Project Leader: Dr Joe Dusseldorp
Team: John Paul McKeown, Alistair McEwan, James Fallon
Prize: $30,000 plus mentoring on finance and capital attraction to the value of the prize by Morgans