A team of biomedical engineers and doctors, led by Associate Professor Robert McLaughlin and Professor David Sampson, from The University of Western Australia has won The Australian newspaper’s Innovation Challenge for developing the world’s smallest handheld microscope.
The team took out first prize and $30,000, competing against a record field of 310 entries from innovators across the country in the national awards which aim to drive some of Australia’s best ideas to commercialisation and honour excellence across a broad range of areas.
The breakthrough invention of a miniature micro-optic device that can fit in a needle to guide surgeons while they are operating has the potential to radically improve the safety and effectiveness of cancer surgery.
The probe is being developed to guide breast cancer surgery and brain biopsies, helping surgeons better detect cancer cells that may otherwise be missed, and avoid damaging blood vessels.
Judges at the awards presentation at the National Science and Technology Centre, Questacon, in Canberra, said the device could “well become a game-changer in medical clinical practice”.
Federal Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy said the winning technology “exemplified Australian ingenuity”.
“It is yet another illustration of how innovation aimed at solving specific problems almost always has wider applications,” Mr Roy said.
UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson said the pioneering technology, developed in collaboration with clinicians from Royal Perth Hospital and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and with support from Cancer Council WA, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Research Centre WA, had already won recognition around the world.
“This pioneering technology demonstrates how world-class scientific research at UWA can have a truly global impact,” Professor Johnson said.
“UWA’s growing expertise, fuelled by the imagination, expertise and dedication of our researchers, has seen the University become a driver of innovation and solutions.”
The winning research team also won ethical clearance this week to trial the device in neurosurgical procedures in humans.
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716