Flinders’ shining lights top Adelaide Oval

JAA revolutionary fibre-optic catheter dubbed “the Hubble Telescope of gastroenterology” has beaten projects that include the Adelaide Oval redevelopment and a digital over-the-horizon radar system to win the peak national engineering prize.

Flinders University biomedical engineer Professor John Arkwright (pictured) and Flinders Medical Centre Senior Medical Scientist Associate Professor Phil Dinning led a multi-disciplinary team to win the Sir William Hudson Award for Engineering Excellence for the development of a novel manometry (pressure-sensing) catheter at the 2014 Australian Engineering Excellence Awards ceremony, held in Melbourne on November 24.

The win confirms the Flinders University Medical Device Research Institute’s status as the ‘go-to’ university centre for medical device research and development.

Building on the team’s success winning the prestigious 2011 ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use in Technology, this latest award recognises the team’s ongoing achievements in using this revolutionary new device to record and characterise muscular activity deep within the human body to increase understanding of a range of bowel conditions and diseases.

The collaboration between Flinders University (John Arkwright and Lukasz Wiklendt), CSIRO (Neil Blenman and Simon Maunder), Flinders Medical Centre (Phil Dinning) and Griffith University (Ian Underhill), has ensured that the fibre optic catheter – initially developed in 2008 during Professor Arkwright’s time at the CSIRO – has progressed from an interesting technical curiosity to a sought-after clinical tool.

The team recently won first place in the Welfare, Health and Safety, and the Innovations and Inventions categories in the Sydney division of the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards, and then took out the highest overall accolade – the Bradfield Award – in that competition.

“On behalf of the team, it’s a tremendous honour to be recognised by Engineers Australia for our efforts to enhance Australia’s capacity for medical device research and development,” Professor Arkwright said.

“I’m equally honoured to join an elite group of Australia’s premier engineers at Flinders who have set global benchmarks for best practice and who are seen as leaders in the profession,” he said.

Professor Arkwright said a key strength of Flinders Medical Device Research Institute is its “vertically integrated approach” to medical device development.

“The Institute provides a ’one-stop-shop‘ of complementary skills and capabilities which is unique and exciting to be a part of,” Professor Arkwright said.

“We have expertise in fundamental engineering, human physiology and clinical research, as well as expertise in surgical applications and close links with industry.”

Professor Karen Reynolds, Director of the Institute, said the award is a “fitting tribute” to the dedication of Professor Arkwright, Associate Professor Dinning and their colleagues, and is further evidence of the national recognition of research within the Institute.

Professor Arkwright was appointed to Flinders in March this year through the SA Government’s Premier’s Research and Industry Fund. The fund aims to encourage investment in key science and research areas that have the potential to generate significant economic, social and/or environmental benefits for the State.

Associate Professor Dinning moved from the University of New South Wales to Flinders University in 2011 and then in 2013 took up the position of Senior Medical Scientist in the Department of Gastroenterology and Surgery, Flinders Medical Centre.

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