MTPConnect and the Minister for Health, The Hon Greg Hunt MP, announced $18.8 million in funding for 21 early stage medical technology projects across Australia, according to a press release on the Ear Science Institute Australia’s (ESIA) website. One of those recipients is ESIA, who received a $993,500 grant to advance the commercialization of ClearDrum, a device that incorporates silk in an ear implant.
ClearDrum has been developed in Western Australia and has been driven by ESIA Founding Director Professor Marcus Atlas. It is a “world-first, acoustically optimized” silk fibroin implant for the treatment of chronic middle ear disease (CMED). It is the “first implant which mimics a human eardrum,” according to ESIA’s announcement. ESIA say that “while it looks like a contact lens, it’s instead a device on which the patient’s cells can grow.”
“What our team found is that the tympanic membrane cells, called keratinocytes, actively proliferate and migrate across this scaffold, promoting the healing process,” said Atlas. “This is a major step for ESIA as we move to translate our research science to the world.”
The device is developed in two different formulations, which will allow ClearDrum to dissolve over time, addressing small perforations or acting as a long lasting implant for larger perforations, with no need for further operations. Additionally, the transparent material “enables ongoing monitoring of healing and resolution of the middle ear,” ESIA says.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 65-330 million individuals have CMED, and 60% of them have a significant hearing impairment. ClearDrum will help provide “a novel and effective treatment for sufferers of CMED, which is a major cause of global disability in ear surgery practice and is particularly prevalent in Australian indigenous populations.”
ESIA Chief Executive Officer Sandra Bellekom adds, “Our plan is for ClearDrum to be available to patients in a clinical trial next year. Without funding such as this from MTPConnect, that opportunity for the end user to benefit from our breakthrough research would be a lot further away.”
Atlas worked with lead scientist Dr Filippo Valente on the successful grant. Valente said, “Current treatments leave a significant percentage of individuals with ongoing problems, often requiring multiple surgeries and incurring high costs for the healthcare system. The ClearDrum device aims to provide an off-the-shelf, near-permanent implant, to resolve these difficulties in a single, straightforward surgical procedure.”
The current stage of development of the project includes a working prototype, a strong international IP position, a contracted manufacturer organization, and collaborations with a series of Australian companies and organizations to address various phases of pre-clinical and clinical development. This new BMTH funding will assist with the commercialization phase.
MTPConnect Managing Director and CEO, Dr Dan Grant, says round three of the BioMedTech Horizons program focused predominantly on research funding for digital health innovations and medical devices.
“Building home-grown translational and commercialization capacity means boosting our knowledge economy and creating new products, jobs, and potential exports. This is particularly important now considering the hit that our sector has taken dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown,” said Grant.