From mid-2024, UNSW researchers and students will work alongside the clinical community in the Randwick Health & Innovation Precinct to help discover unmet clinical needs and design innovative solutions to improve patient outcomes. 

In the integrated eastern extension of the Acute Services Building (ASB), UNSW will house state-of-the-art research, clinical innovation, biomedical and teaching facilities across 10 floors and approximately 5000 square metres.

With three dedicated biomedical engineering floors led by UNSW’s Tyree Foundation Institute of Health Engineering (IHealthE), spaces will inspire prototyping partnerships with researchers and clinicians working side-by-side to create technology solutions for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of a wide range of conditions.

UNSW’s Professor Laura Poole-Warren, co-Director of the Tyree Foundation Institute of Health Engineering, has been instrumental in shaping a distinct vision for these spaces. She believes that new ways of working together will help uncover unmet clinical needs and find ways to help clinicians treat their patients.

“Clinicians have said to us, ‘We don’t know what’s feasible to engineer,’ and through co-location and collaboration, we can actually show them firsthand possible tech solutions,” she said.

“This is a space for us to engage directly with clinicians, patients, community and even industry if appropriate. We want to foster interaction and focus on clinically engaged projects.”

Researchers and clinicians will work across the three floors fluidly, feeding back information between the spaces as ideas, prototyping and data analysis progress.

Hyperspectral imaging is a new diagnostic technique that Biosensing and Imaging researchers are developing to a 'fingerprint' to allow differentiation between healthy and non-healthy cells or tissues. The technique uses light to capture the native fluorescence of cells, allowing biochemical and molecular information to be obtained benefitting label-free, non-invasive diagnostics.

Space to create and prototype clinical ideas

On level one of the UNSW Eastern Extension, a dry clinical prototyping lab will help inspire researchers and clinicians to co-design medical technology like diagnostic devices, implants, catheters and surgical robots. The space will include a training facility for procedures like vascular surgery.

Next to the prototyping space will be collaboration areas for generating ideas. The floor will be designed with small and flexible meeting rooms where technologists can work with clinicians to discuss their challenges and pain points, assess them and design solutions.

The floor will also be home to a new undergraduate cohort of students studying health technology innovation.

Being co-located with operating theatres, clinicians will have direct access to explore and innovate solutions. One example of this is using an anatomical printer to visualise options for surgical interventions.  Together clinicians and researchers can focus on presurgical planning by imaging and then bioprinting physical anatomy. This will help surgeons develop personalised and patient-centric approaches to care.

The messy work of prototyping

On the second level of UNSW’s Eastern Extension, bioengineering spaces will enable the manufacturing of the clinical solutions identified on the floor below.

Here biomedical engineers will use cutting, drilling and sewing machines, bioprinters and other engineering devices to rapidly build prototypes. Researchers will work directly with clinicians iteratively to develop solutions in real-time.

With a biospecimen laboratory next door, researchers and clinicians will have access to tissue specimens, allowing them to create 3D tissue and disease models using ethically sourced samples from patients. Clinicians can investigate personalised drug therapies or to see how an anatomical structure might be influenced by a pathology. This enables a health team to tailor personal interventions, improving care, interventions and health outcomes. 

Researchers in our Materials and Cell Technologies team have used 3D printers to create model cochlea that allow us to study interactions of new medical devices with tissue-like structures. Such printing techniques have great potential to provide many model tissue types to enable preclinical testing of drugs and devices.

A connected health floor: bringing data and devices together to support patient care

On level three, researchers will bring ethically sourced information and medical technology together to support patients through sensors, devices and the generation of data. Computational modelling will be used to analyse the data and predictive analytics to make predications and show trends.

Researchers will work directly with the ASB’s Community Management Centre, focussing on supporting the hospital’s strong tele-clinical, virtual care and remote monitoring capabilities.

An established collaboration that’s already supported the tele-clinical monitoring of over 8,000 people with COVID, UNSW will work with the Community Management Centre and to support patients at home by monitoring conditions like stroke rehabilitation, gestational diabetes and other conditions. Data that is produced can be used not only to treat an individual but to make predictive models for diagnosis or prevention based on medical images and other data.

Data visualisation through augmented and virtual reality will show clinical care teams data in a way that’s meaningful.

UNSW’s Gemma Ashton, IHealthE’s Chief Operation Officer, has worked on the design of the three floors. She argues by co-locating with the hospital, research will be practical and needs based.

“By building trust and meaningful relationship, we’ll be able to better collaborate and understand the needs of our clinical partners. It will be so helpful to work directly with clinicians to identify their needs, but then actually produce prototypes to accelerate the translation for a patient’s benefit,” she said.

“We’re super excited to be part of the hospital community. It’s going to be incredible.”