THE Australian Nucelar Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) is providing expertise and irradiation services for Sydney-based biomedical company OncoSil Medical, which is developing a device to treat pancreatic cancer tumours.

The company’s device, OncoSil, is an implantable radiotherapy device containing a phosphorus radioisotope which is used to treated patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer tumours.  

Evaluation of OncoSil is currently underway in a global clinical trial being conducted in Australia, US and UK, with 25 patients now successfully implanted. OncoSil’s approach involves the delivery of concentrated and localised radiation from microscopic sources which are inserted directly into a tumour. 

The OPAL multi-purpose nuclear reactor at ANSTO is providing ‘activation’ of the microparticles through the production of phosphorus-32 (32P); a radioisotope which is encapsulated within the microparticles.

The OncoSil implant is delivered directly to pancreatic tumours via an ultrasonically guided endoscopic procedure. 

There are several Australian patients among the subjects enrolled in the current global clinical trial, which is evaluating the safety and efficacy of the microparticles, in combination with chemotherapy, for adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. 

Preliminary results were reported by Oncosil Medical at the European Association of Nuclear Medicine in October last year in Vienna showing the device was able to control spread of disease by 100 percent up to 16 weeks post implantation, while also reducing tumour volumes by about 70 percent up to 12 weeks following the procedure.

These results are particularly impressive given the lack of breakthroughs in recent decades treating pancreatic cancer, and were favourably received by the nuclear medicine global community. 

Oncolsil Microparticles are designed to deliver a minimum dose radiation of 100 gray in one single treatment. It does this while at the same time sparing any significant dose to healthy tissue, such as the normal pancreas.

This internal radiation therapy can be compared with external beam therapy in which doses to the tumour are usually significantly lower, and the risk of collateral damage is significantly higher. 

There are more than 280,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer worldwide every year and 265,000 die of their disease.

Oncologists recommend conventional radiation therapy in some cases but it can damage healthy tissue. Almost 80 per cent of pancreatic cancer cases are inoperable. 

As a promising alternative, Oncosil Microparticles have been developed with the involvement of researchers and clinicians over several years. 

The useful properties of phosphorous radioisotopes have been known since the 1940s, and they have been used for the treatment of blood cancers, other metastatic malignancies, eye disease, as well as for diagnostic means and in palliative care. 

Microparticles of silicon containing phosphorous are placed in the OPAL reactor to activate the phosphorus forming an isotope of 32P which emits beta radiation.

Once activated the radioactive phosphorous has a half-life of about14days. 

The reactor is used to also provide a supply of the most commonly used nuclear medicine technetium-99m and other diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals for other industry partners.

“ANSTO, and OPAL, are pleased to play a role in the manufacture of this unique product that may offer an effective treatment option to people with advanced pancreatic cancer,” said ANSTO’s Dr Timothy Boyle. 

Commenting on the relationship, Daniel Kenny, CEO of OncoSil Medical said, “ANSTO has been a important partner for OncoSil Medical, and absolutely critical in the supply of radioactive microparticles for our medical device which we hope will make a real difference in the lives of those affected by pancreatic cancer. We appreciate all their support to date, and look forward to continuing to work together into the future.” 

OncoSil Medical continues to recruit patients to its global pancreatic cancer clinical study program across sites in Australia, US and UK.


AUSTRALIA is likely to improve its expertise and methods in tropical medicine through improved investments in research through the Federal Government’s Hot North program.

In early 2018, 13 medical researchers and projects tackling critical health issues across northern Australia received $6 million in new funding through the Hot North program, which is led by the Menzies School of Health Research.

“These issues include vector-borne and emerging infectious diseases, particularly malaria, and skin health, chronic disease, anti-microbial resistance and respiratory health,” Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said. 

Mr Canavan said the first Hot North  research grants and fellowships went to researchers from the Menzies School of Health Research, Telethon Kids Institute, James Cook University and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

“These 13 new research projects add to more than 20 others already underway into health problems such as malaria, pneumonia, the spread of respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, diabetes and rheumatic heart disease in the Northern Territory and in nearby countries,” Mr Canavan said.

“Hot North is helping to build Australia’s reputation as a global leader in tropical medicine and to create a thriving community of researchers in the north who will make a real difference to the health of Australians and our regional neighbours into the future.

“This research is identifying emerging medical threats within the region and build local capacity to address them.”

Mr Canavan said innovation and research were keys to enhancing the north’s competitiveness.

“As well as building our research capacity in areas like tropical health and biosecurity, we are supporting researchers to commercialise new ideas, treatments and therapies, and to partner with international researchers and companies,” Mr Canavan said.

“Through initiatives like the CRC for Developing Northern Australia, we are also helping northern-based businesses and industry collaborate with researchers to generate new ideas and innovation that leverages the north’s strengths and address its challenges.”

Established in 2017, the Hot North program will run until 2020, and brings eight of Australia’s leading medical research institutions together to focus on Northern Australia and the South East Pacific.

About 25 percent of the Hot North support goes to Australia’s neighbours in the South East Pacific, supporting two medical research hubs in Malaysia and Indonesia, and a number of Australian researchers are collaborating with local health professionals.

Hot North  is also running professional teaching workshops in remote locations in the north, such as Katherine, Broome and the Torres Strait, so that northern tropical medicine experts and local health practitioners can share knowledge and ideas.


AN E-WASTE RECYCLING ‘hackerspace’ developed at Logan city near Brisbane has produced an extraordinary range of useful products including innovative road signs, ‘green’ bikes, affordable 3D printers.

But perhaps its greatest product of all is the improved mental health and well-being for its participants, who are largely from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to QUT researcher Dhaval Vyas. 

Dr Vyas is researching the effects of participation in such ‘makerspaces’ and has taken a special interest in outcomes generated by Logan’s social enterprise space, Substation33.

Substation33 was developed specifically for people from marginalised backgrounds to learn new skills – and Dr Vyas said participants openly report improvements in well-being, mental health and job skills

The anecdotal evidence has been confirmed in findings from a research study of Substation33 conducted by QUT Computer Human Interaction researcher Dr Vyas, who also  recently received an Australian Research Council (ARC) DECRA award for the project.
“The ARC DECRA grant will enable an in-depth study of the benefits of do-it-yourself activities for people from low socio-economic (LSE) backgrounds at high risk of digital exclusion,” Dr Vyas said.

“The grant will be used to study other LSE hacker or maker spaces – a woodworks-based recycling makerspace and two crafts and sewing oriented making workshops.

“Traditional makerspaces are technology solution-focussed and cater for a more affluent group and often fail to provide benefits for LSE people.

“I’m investigating how the social and cultural nature of makerspaces enables creative and innovative work while supporting members.

“Substation33 members have designed and made innovative technology such as road signs for local conditions that record flood levels – which have been bought by the local council. They have also made green bicycles that run on refurbished laptop batteries.

“Members design and make 3D printers for their own use such as printing new battery packs for reclaimed and recharged laptop batteries, and DIY 3D printer kits for schools or for sale.”

Dr Vyas said design was normally assisted by professional designers, including user experience designers with mainstream, affluent users in mind.

“The creativity inherent in everyone is often left untapped or un-nurtured, especially in the members from LSE backgrounds,” Dr Vyas said.

“This project aims to uncover and explore design by a diversity of people from marginalised backgrounds, to make products that suit their own needs and ones they can commercialise.”

Dr Vyas said peer learning and interdependent teams were essential for integrating new Substation33 members.

“Relying on peer learning helps new members gain communication skills and different members have developed their own strategies for teaching and learning hacking skills,” he said.

“These organic socialising activities have resulted in improved mental health for members and a sense of community. They have described the experience of ‘pulling things apart’ as means to ‘let my anger and stress out’ and be ‘happy the whole day’.”

Dr Vyas said the Substation 33 study was part of a project that would take an ethnographic approach to investigate current practices of members of four makerspaces that involve people from marginalised backgrounds

The project would then engage participants in co-design workshops to develop ideas that fit their own needs and agenda.

“Through these activities, the project will develop new models and theories of creative making that can be applied in other environments,” Dr Vyas said.


A BLOOD TEST for colorectal cancer, an open-access online portal for Australian biodiversity and a sustainable approach to controlling devastating rust disease in crops, were some of the Australian innovations celebrated today at the annual CSIRO Awards recently. 

Now in its 32nd year, the CSIRO Awards – presented at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra – showcased the achievements of the national science agency’s people and partners, and the difference their research makes to industry, society and the planet.
CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said CSIRO’s people “get up every morning to change the world”.

The CSIRO Entrepreneurship Award went to the team behind the Colvera blood test for bowel cancer. Colvera can indicate early molecular changes associated with cancer development which could lead to a reduction in the number of deaths from the disease. Working with CSIRO partners Clinical Genomics, Colvera has just been released in the US and will become available in Australia this year. 

The CSIRO Medal for Impact from Science went to the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) for developing world-leading e-research infrastructure which is now being adopted globally. The Atlas of Living Australia, which has had more than 13 billion downloads, provides free online access to information about Australia’s biodiversity. The ALA has been developed through its many partners including the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, and is supported through the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

The Chairman’s Medal for Science Excellence was awarded to the cereal rust disease prevention team whose research, in partnership with the Grains Research and Development Corporation, has contributed to global food security by protecting cereal crops against rust diseases.

The CSIRO Medal for Support Excellence was won by the team behind ON for designing, implementing and expanding Australia’s first national sci-tech accelerator which empowers Australian researchers ‘to create positive economic, social and environmental impact from their science and technology’. 

The John Philip Award for the Promotion of Excellence in Young Scientists was won by doctors Sam Spinks and Robyn Hall. Dr Spinks’ research has helped identify prospective regions in WA and the NT for exploration investment. Dr Hall’s research is helping manage wild rabbit populations.

The Chief Executive Professional Development Awards went to Emily Chang, George Feast and Katrina Spencer. Ms Chang has developed new ways and approaches to facilitate innovation and collaboration within CSIRO. Dr Feast is further developing his expertise in facilitating business-research collaboration. Ms Spencer is expanding her expertise in social entrepreneurship.

The CSIRO Medal for Health, Safety and Environment Achievement went to the team of herbarium curators at the spirit collection, for improving health and safety at the Australian National Herbarium and Australian Tropical Herbarium.

CSIRO Medals for Lifetime Achievement were awarded to doctors Jennifer Stauber and Mark Stafford Smith.

Dr Stauber was recognised for her landmark research that has underpinned national water and sediment quality guidelines for environmental protection in Australasia and globally over 38 years.  

Dr Stafford Smith was awarded for more than 30 years of international leadership in sustainability science that has informed policy and management of human ecosystems under global change and uncertainty.

The Team CSIRO Award went to Dr Jack Steele, ‘for living and breathing what it means to be a member of Team CSIRO’.

“Our people are passionate about creating science-driven solutions for the biggest challenges facing our nation, and thrive on collaborating across the country to make life better for everyone,” Dr Marshall said.

“The CSIRO Awards honour the teams, individuals and partners that embody this vision.

“Every year our people set the bar higher, collaborating with universities and industry more than ever to deliver more game-changing innovations for Australia and the world.”


TEN  startup businesses will pitch their concepts and plans to potential investors at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Sydney on February 21.

The event is part of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney’s inaugural Founders 10x Accelerator program.

Pitches include a motorcycle helmet that improves a rider’s reaction time, an asteroid-prospecting company searching for viable mineral reserves in space, and a domestic nanny service to give busy parents back their ‘me-time’.

Teams from the Founders 10x Accelerator program’s first cohort of entrepreneurs will pitch their businesses to potential investors as part of the launch of the Founders Program, the flagship initiative of the UNSW Entrepreneurship team, at the MCA.  

The Accelerator program identified 10 high-impact UNSW student or alumni startups to participate in an intensive 10-week program, offering world-class mentoring and networking opportunities, business development services and financial support.

The program includes masterclasses hosted by Silicon Valley-based startups, access to UNSW’s network of founders, alumni and mentors, and $20,000 in seed-funding.

The program is part of a suite of new initiatives launched through the Founders Program, which includes aspects such as Founders Global, helping student entrepreneurs understand and access the rapidly growing global innovation and venture capital ecosystems, and New Wave Founders, addressing the gender gap in entrepreneurship through support programs for women in the startup space.

UNSW’s director of entrepreneurship, Elizabeth Eastland, said its unique model for entrepreneurial confidence sets the Founders Program apart. Dr Eastland said through its ‘Founders First’ ethos, the program offered founders a different perspective on what success and excellence looks like; a mindset driven by a desire to succeed, a commitment to sustainability and a focus on giving back.

The startups pitching for investor funds at Wednesday’s launch offer innovative solutions to a diverse range of problems. Heba Shaheed, one half of the husband-and-wife team behind the Pelvic Expert, has made it her mission to give women’s health a voice through the e-learning site. 

The Pelvic Expert combines holistic and research-based women’s health solutions to help with pregnancy, birth recovery, chronic pain and related issues.

“There is little accurate, reliable and accessible information on women’s health and pelvic issues,” Heba, the mother of a 10-month-old, said. “We offer e-health on a gamified platform that you can access anywhere in the world.”

Other startups pitching for investor funds include a digital credit card addressing online fraud, a portal to virtual internships to advance careers, and a cloud-based engineering software company allowing users to model, analyse and design structures through simulation.

Dr Eastland said, “The Founders Program amplifies UNSW Sydney’s outstanding reputation for fostering entrepreneurial talent. This ambitious initiative aims to make entrepreneurial confidence a part of every UNSW student’s experience, equipping them with the skills and resilience they need to thrive in the 21st century marketplace.”




This emphasis on resilience has personal significance for Malaysian-Australian businessman, Maha Sinnathamby, who has donated $5 million to UNSW, half of which will be used to fund the Accelerator program.

Mr Sinnathamby is the entrepreneur behind the Greater Springfield city building project in Queensland – Australia’s largest master planned community and the 10th largest globally. He credits his success and sizeable personal fortune to simple hard work, and not ever giving up in the face of adversity – something he is no stranger to.

At five, he watched as his father, a British informant, was taken as a prisoner of war during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia (known as Malaya at the time). His father was one of only two survivors of 142 imprisoned.  

With persistence and a good education, Mr Sinnathamby believes it is possible to overcome any challenge. It was this mindset that helped him to overcome his impoverished childhood on a small farming village outside Kuala Lumpur with no electricity, little running water and a kerosene lamp to study under at night.

As a young man, Mr Sinnathamby moved to Australia to study civil engineering. Though he struggled to support himself, he succeeded against the odds.  A variety of small business ventures and driving a cab at night kept him going and taught him that “anything is possible in Australia if you want it badly enough”. 

According to Mr Sinnathamby, failures in life are as important as successes.

“You have to have a deaf ear to negativity and just keep going,” Mr Sinnathamby said, “and a strong sense of self-belief.” 

The second cohort of the Founder10x Accelerator will begin in mid-2018. To date, 400 startups and 600 founders have been supported by UNSW’s existing entrepreneurship programs and more than 25,000 people have participated in events and workshops at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre.

More than 100 startups per year graduate from UNSW’s coordinated programs.


RIVER CITY LABS Accelerator, in partnership with Telstra-backed muru-D, has opened applications for its next cohort of business founders seeking to scale fast – and internationally.

The Brisbane-based River City Labs Accelerator (RCL Accelerator) is a comprehensive quality program uniquely designed for startups who are ready to scale their businesses fast. The program provides each startup with $60,000 seed capital along with six months membership at RCL, business development support and introductions to global mentors, customers and investors. 

After three successful cohorts and 20 startups backed to date, RCL Accelerator is ready to welcome the next batch of startups to the latest program, labelled BNE.

BNE3 saw 145 startups from eight countries apply. After an intense interview and two-day bootcamp process, only 10 teams were selected for the program. For the BNE4 cohort, the accelerator is shifting focus from early-stage startups to later-stage and pre-series A scaleups.

The new head of RCL Accelerator and serial entrepreneur, Cristo Pajust, said the program was seeking founders who have a strong work ethic and the ambition to grow fast, “and those who don’t take ‘no’ easily”.

He said the program assists founders to connect to global markets that are valuable to their startups.

“We help teams tackle the hurdles, initiate a long-term relationship with suitable corporate partners and relevant investors in Australia and worldwide,” Mr Pajust said. “It’s suited to entrepreneurs who are ready to take their company seriously and want to grow in a fast paced environment.

“This is the program for the ones who have already achieved something good and want to become exceptionally great quicker than anybody else,” he said.

The program focusses on its local hands-on support from world-class serial entrepreneurs. RCL Accelerator concentrates on immediately matching startups with the right financing partner-investor, and directly connecting them to relevant corporations, venture funds and foreign sales markets.

“Instead of theory, we concentrate on execution and hands-on expansion help with local support from experienced entrepreneurs who've done it in target markets before,” Mr Pajust said. “The difference compared to any other local programs comes from actionable -- not theoretical – support from serial entrepreneurs.”

Head of muru-D, Julie Trell said the RCL Accelerator program was going from strength to strength.

“It’s been great to see the growth of the RCL Accelerator year on year as they continue to attract great founders to the program,” Ms Trell said. “It’s fantastic to see the enthusiasm and support from the Brisbane startup ecosystem and I look forward to finding out who will be joining the fourth cohort.”

The River City Labs Accelerator applications close on April 30. Startups in the current cohort, BNE3, will hold their end-of-program demo day alongside RiverPitch in a brand new event titled Startup Invest.

The event will be held during Myriad Festival, Brisbane’s biggest annual startup festival, on May 17.


THE Boeing-developed autonomous ocean vehicle, Wave Glider, is now helping the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) test how a high‐tech autonomous ocean vehicle could improve monitoring of the Great Barrier Reef and coastal waters.

A recent seven‐day trial saw the vehicle cover 200 nautical miles of the central Great Barrier Reef, in what is the first major milestone of a five‐year joint research agreement between AIMS and Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company.

Wave Glider, developed by Boeing subsidiary Liquid Robotics, was deployed at the Great Barrier Reef to help assess the health of the coral reefs and ecosystems. Powered by waves and sun, the vehicle provided continuous, real‐time environmental ocean data using a suite of on‐board sensors and software.

As Wave Glider travels along the ocean’s surface, its measurements can include weather, wave heights, water salinity and pH levels, chlorophyll and more. 

AIMS head of data and technology innovation  Lyndon Llewellyn said researchers were still analysing data captured by the autonomous vehicle.

“We are impressed with the number of different measurements it could conduct at the same time and its ability to transmit the data back to our base immediately and reliably while navigating and performing its mission,” Dr Llewellyn said.

Dr Llewellyn said the technology allowed science to measure atmosphere and water over long periods of time because the vehicle could operate at sea for several months at a time while following a programmed course or being piloted remotely.

“It was quite extraordinary how the Wave Glider remained on its planned mission,” Dr Llewellyn said. “It went where it was told to and it stayed the course like an orienteering champion.

“The Wave Glider technology will be an important tool to advance our mission to better monitor the Great Barrier Reef.”

Because of its autonomous nature, Wave Glider frees up human resources to focus on science and not the logistics of collecting data. 

Boeing Autonomous Systems vice president and general manager Chris Raymond said, “Boeing and our Liquid Robotics team are proud to support AIMS in its mission to monitor the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

“The demonstration proves how autonomous systems like our Wave Glider can improve upon human‐based environmental data collection methods while also being safe and affordable," Mr Raymond said.


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