Australia: New Center to Train Students in 3D Printed Medical Implants

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Australian researchers are developing the technology to produce 3D printed replacement joints and bones designed and built specifically for patients, and much more. The country is working on becoming a focal point of medical 3D printing, with researchers making significant headway in biofabrication. At the core of the Australian efforts are students who will develop the future of a field that could change drastically in the next ten years.

In line with that progressive scientific transformation, the Australian Government funded a research center to train a new generation of industry-ready biomedical engineers with skills in personalized 3D printed medical implants, both orthopedic and maxillofacial. The Australian Research Council Training Centre for Medical Implant Technologies (ARC CMIT) was launched on November 8 at The University of Melbourne, in Victoria, and brings together 24 organisations across hospital clinicians, academics, and industry, in order to develop an integrated framework for 3D printed prostheses, implants, and personalised surgical devices. As part of the preparation, doctoral students and postdoctoral candidates can undertake research at Epworth Healthcare, Flinders University, Griffith University and of course The University of Melbourne, working with both industry and hospital partners from Australia, Belgium, China, United Kingdom, and the United States.

“Australia’s got talent! Talent from doctors in hospitals. Talent from experts in industry. Talent from researchers in universities”, declared Peter Lee, Centre Director, during his inauguration speech.

The Australian Government, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, is providing over 2.7 million dollars ($4 million AUD) to establish the new research training center and help develop next-generation personalized knee, hip, spine, shoulder, and jaw medical implants. Austin Health 3D Medical Printing Laboratory (3DMedLab) has also been a key partner of this application from its inception and will be delivering the key grass-roots clinical component of the center, helping industry, academics, and engineers gain experience in and understand how this technology will function in a real-life, working hospital environment.

The Minister for Education, Daniel Thomas Tehan, expressed that “the research conducted at the center would transform the medical implant industry in Australia.” He also claimed that “it will lead to safer and more efficient surgical procedures, faster recovery time and better patient outcomes.”

“Researchers will also work with industry to develop clear pathways to commercialise research that creates business and job opportunities for Australians, train a new generation of engineers with multidisciplinary research and development to drive the growth of our local medical implant industry and foster collaboration between Australian universities and industry to deliver outcomes that benefit everyone,” continued Tehan.

The event kicked off with a panel discussion on the Future of Medical Implant Technologies, where researchers from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), 3DMeditech and Materialise discussed some of the most challenging questions. Following the official launch, partners of ARC CMIT introduced their respective research programs at a workshop, discussing priorities with partners and plans for the next 12 months.

The ARC CMIT program will focus on three major research areas:

  1. Platform technologies for rigorous design and development of personalized medical implants.
  2. Technologies for optimizing implant materials and manufacturing for maximum patient safety and function.
  3. Virtual assessment of device performance: from preclinical testing and enhancing clinical trials to planning and decision support.

Ph.D student Stepanka Haiblikova with Professor Peter Lee at ARC CMIT

“The training centre will develop preclinical tools like 3D modelling to evaluate the performance of joint replacement before it is implanted in a patient. This is great news for patients who will receive medical implants that have been designed for them and tested by computers before surgery,” suggested Katie Allen, medical researcher and representative for Tehan during the inauguration ceremony.

Moreover, any student who is interested in participating in the ARC CMIT training program can sign up today for one of 10 projects that are already underway, such as virtual clinical trials of total knee replacement Ph.D. project at Flinders University, or developing a framework for point-of-care manufacturing for personalized orthopedic implants and devices at The University of Melbourne. All of the projects will be undertaken in partnership with industry and clinical partners. Three students have already joined the center.

In that sense, 3DMedLab claims that “given the expertise that is in this research team, you would be hard-pressed to find a problem we can’t solve if we put our collective minds to it!”

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Images: ARC CMIT and The University of Melbourne]

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