Engineering solutions for clinical care

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.

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.

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

On level one, 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.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.

Being co-located with operating theatres, clinicians will have direct access to explore and innovate solutions, working with researchers on presurgical planning by imaging and then bioprinting physical anatomy, supporting personalised and patient-centric approaches to care.

On the second level, 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. This enables a health team to tailor personal interventions, improving care, interventions and health outcomes.

On level three, researchers will bring ethically sourced information and medical technology together to support patients through sensors, devices and the generation of data. Researchers will work directly with the ASB’s Community Management Centre, focusing on supporting the hospital’s strong tele-clinical, virtual care and remote monitoring capabilities.

UNSW’s Gemma Ashton, IHealthE’s Chief Operation Officer, has worked on the design of the spaces and believes co-location with the hospital will enable practical, needs-based research.

“By building trust and meaningful relationships, 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.

Published January 2024