Monash to lead Australian revolution in next generation heart devices

Monash University is to lead a transdisciplinary consortium to develop and commercialise a suite of revolutionary and life-changing implantable cardiac devices that, for the first time, will offer longer term solutions for all types of debilitating heart failure.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, The Hon Mark Butler, announced that the Monash-led Artificial Heart Frontiers Program, based at the Monash Alfred Baker Centre for Cardiovascular Research at The Alfred, has been awarded a $50 million grant from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) towards developing and commercialising three key devices to treat the most common forms of heart failure.

Together the highly durable devices could halve deaths from heart failure and establish Australia as a world leader in the clinical trial, development and local manufacture of cardiac medical technology.

The devices comprise:

  • a wholly new miniature device, the Mini-Pump, that is implanted inside the hearts of patients who currently have no other option for treating their heart failure symptoms;
  • a new type of Left Ventricle Assist Device (LVAD) that is implanted next to a natural heart to help it pump; and

  • the Australia-US based BiVACOR ’s Total Artificial Heart (TAH) that fully replaces a natural heart.

    All three devices use game-changing technologies that will allow them to mimic a natural heart by automatically responding to the body’s physical demands - for the first-time offering heart failure patients a treatment that helps to keep them active.

    Current devices operate with a relatively fixed blood flow rate (or pump speed) that significantly curtails activity by leaving patients out of breath.

    "The Artificial Heart Frontiers Program underlines Monash’s commitment to purpose-driven research and innovation to deliver tangible and significant outcomes," said Monash University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Sharon Pickering.

    "An MRFF grant of this scale recognises the strength of Monash’s world-leading cardiac and engineering research, and our commitment to working with partners in research, industry, government and the community to address global challenges."

    The MRFF funding will support clinical trials to commence early within the program at The Alfred in Melbourne and St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney. The TAH is expected to be on the market as soon as 2025, followed by the new LVAD in 2029, and the novel Mini-Pump in 2031.

    By 2036 the project is expected to have generated a $1.8 billion benefit to Australia and Australian society, including savings to the healthcare system, an expansion in local industry in research and manufacturing, the creation of more than 2000 jobs, and providing Australians early access to clinical trials and emerging life-saving technologies.

    "Heart failure is a chronic progressive condition in which patients suffer from debilitating symptoms including persistent breathlessness and fatigue, that frequently require hospitalisation at great cost to a patient’s quality of life and the health system," said project co-lead and Director of Cardiology at The Alfred, Professor David Kaye.

    "The average survival of a heart failure patient is comparable to some cancers at just five years, and is even less for patients with advanced heart failure, who are the people our devices will most benefit," said Professor Kaye, who also leads the Monash Alfred Baker Centre for Cardiovascular Research.

    "By providing for the first time an automatic physiological response, these devices will significantly improve the quality of life of patients, allowing them to complete standard daily activities without shortness of breath," Professor Kaye said.

    The development and manufacture of the devices will be the basis for a new medical device industry in Australia, comprising advanced engineering and pre-clinical evaluation, and building local capacity to support ongoing translational research in Australia’s health and medical sector.

    "Central to the Frontiers Program is the creation of a complete cardiac device ecosystem in Australia encompassing research, clinical trials, commercialisation and the development of new manufacturing capabilities," said project co-lead Associate Professor Shaun Gregory from Monash University’s Faculty of Engineering.

    BiVACOR founder and the Australian designer of the TAH, Dr Daniel Timms, said the consortium was a unique opportunity to bring together life-changing innovation and product development under the strong governance and support of Australia’s pre-eminent research institutions.

    "The Frontiers Project brings together an unrivalled team of world-renowned clinicians and engineers with the resources of leading universities and hospitals to focus on bettering the lives of people living with heart failure and creating a long term, vibrant industry here in Australia," Dr Timms said.

    "This project shows the power of research to foster and connect innovation across academic disciplines, organisations and industries to make a profound real-world impact," said Professor Rebekah Brown, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Senior Vice-President at Monash University.

    About Monash cardiovascular health research

    Monash University is transforming the future of cardiovascular health - for Australia and for the world. We’re committed to shaping global knowledge about cardiovascular disease, including how to better prevent it, better detect it, and better treat it. And we’re applying this knowledge across every facet of cardiovascular care.

    pieces about the University’s work with cardiovascular health.

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