When Professor Matthew McDonald and Dr Peter Pedoulias had a revelation in the operating theatre about how spinal fusion surgery could be improved they turned to the Medical Device Partnering Program to make it a reality. Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that corrects issues of the small bones of the spine by permanently connecting two or more vertebrae. This complex surgery is often the last resort to treat back problems and can cost around $46,700 per patient.

The idea of the clinicians, from the Calvary Wakefield Hospital, provided a new solution to aid spinal fusion surgery involving innovative scaffolds and an application device for minimally invasive insertion.

It is often the clinicians like Professor McDonald and Dr Pedoulias who have the best ideas for new medical devices – as they are constantly using or administering the technologies – but may not have the time or expertise to develop the concepts further. “That’s where I see the MDPP being vital in that they have the connections and expertise to help make my idea into reality and also ensure it is commercially viable,” says Matthew. Professor McDonald’s concept went through the MDPP’s rigorous workshop sessions - linking researchers, industry and the clinical community to review and assess the proposal. He believes these workshops provide a platform for healthy debate with new perspectives ultimately improving the end product.

“A great benefit of the MDPP is the engineers and team who understand how medicine works and the complexity of what we are doing. They have the ability to grasp concepts easily to facilitate better solutions. The team is fantastic at bringing diverse groups together all focused on the end product with improving patient outcomes at the forefront.”

Following the workshop, a 250-hour R&D project commenced which resulted in a prototype surgical instrument and consumables. The prototype has since been used to demonstrate to investors. A 30-hour market report was also provided which provides evidence of commercial feasibility of the concept and a clear market opportunity.
Professor McDonald says of his involvement in the MDPP, “It’s not research for research sake, it is about developing ideas to benefit patients, improve clinical outcomes and essentially making a product work the best it can.”

And the relationship continues following the project’s completion, with Professor McDonald and Dr Pedoulias utilising the intellectual property and patent expertise of MDPP partners.
They've also given back to the Program by offering their extensive clinical expertise to benefit other MDPP projects through involvement in workshop and brainstorming sessions.
“The MDPP is an excellent program because it brings together clinicians and researchers early in product development, leading to more clinically focused research and development that will benefit patients greatly. It also gives researchers a clinical mentoring and a link to the real world.”