New wound-healing research project wins NASA tick of approval

Published 4 June 2020
Project leader Dr Rosemary Craig Rapid Repair research team leader Dr Rosemary Craig

A group of Australian scientists has caught the attention of NASA with a novel technology development that could potentially heal wounds in days rather than weeks without using stitches.

Dr Nedeljka Rosic
Dr Nedeljka Rosic

The research team from Southern Cross University is pioneering the Rapid Repair wound dressing technology that changes the way molecules repair, enabling skin to heal more quickly, and potentially removing the need for stitches, staples or glue in many clinical situations.

Project leader Southern Cross University’s Dr Rosemary Craig, is working with biomedical researcher Dr Nedeljka Rosic and business consultant Gerard Criss. The team recently presented the novel technology to a NASA’s Ignite the Night iTech Event panel online, winning this round and securing the team’s place in the August semi-finals.

Dr Craig first came across the idea while recovering from a surgical procedure, when she developed a device that appeared to heal full thickness skin cuts in a much shorter timeframe than normal. Her team has begun clinical trials, and has developed the commercial potential of the product through their repeated successes in CSIRO’s ON Accelerate program.

“NASA is already planning for the future including the ‘Moon to Mars’ mission and hosts this competition series to hear about latest scientific advances and innovative space ideas,” Dr Craig said.

“The panel of NASA scientists said they thought our rapid healing product would be very useful and valuable in space, especially as communication back to earth can often have a 10-minute delay and this is such a simple treatment to apply.

“We really are over the moon to win this part of the competition. It’s pretty unexpected in a way as the quality of the other innovations was extremely high.

“To have NASA support and promote our product is amazing. We’ve had a lot of support from CSIRO to progress our product to market, which makes our product a realistic proposition worth backing.”

While the team was unable to travel San Francisco for the competition due to current travel restrictions, they were able to take part in NASA coaching sessions and give a series of virtual presentations and interviews across the week, mostly between 2am and 6am Australian time. Of the 25 semi-finalists, 10 teams will be chosen to spend a week at NASA when restrictions lift.

Dr Craig said a pilot study at Lismore campus’ Southern Cross University Health Clinic – where she is a practicing GP – showed promising clinical outcomes. There are plans for further clinical trials in collaboration with the University of Queensland (UQ) to prove the clinical advantages of the device with a greater dataset.

“During our clinical trial on skin cancer wounds we were able to remove patients’ stitches after just one day. These trials are showing this novel dressing works on all skin types, including on aged skin and people with diabetes, and can minimise scarring,” Dr Craig said.

“Future trials plan to heal cuts and wounds without using stitches at all.

“It is simple and painless to apply, using a non-invasive device with a long shelf life. The potential impact of this technology is enormous as it not only increases the rate of repair but significantly changes the way wound healing is understood.”

The Rapid Repair wound dressing is already entered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG 331993) and with a greater dataset will soon be able to register with the FDA.

Southern Cross University Head of the School of Health and Human Sciences Professor Julie Jomeen congratulated the team on their project success, saying their win is an “amazing achievement and the school is excited to see this innovative research develop and deliver real impact in wound care”.

Media contact: Jessica Nelson 0417288794 or scumedia@scu.edu.au