Australian scientists win global NASA competition with revolutionary wound healing technology
Ground-breaking Australian wound-healing technology will be catapulted into space to treat astronauts, following the unprecedented win by Southern Cross University scientists at NASA’s global iTech competition.
The Rapid Repair technology, developed by Southern Cross University’s Dr Rosemary Craig and Dr Nedeljka Rosic with business partner Gerard Criss, has won the final competition round. It follows two days of pitching and interviews over videocall with a panel of NASA’s chief technology officers and investors in the United States.
Project leader Dr Rosemary Craig explained the Rapid Repair wound dressing product is a thin black silicone strip placed over a wound held together by surgical tape, which can repair wounds in days rather than weeks.
Rapid Repair projects a fine virtual skin scaffold into damaged skin so that molecules flowing into the wound align as they would in undamaged skin. This reduces the need for stitches, staples and glue in many clinical situations. To bridge a 1mm gap in damaged skin, it takes more than 4000 collagen molecules to align and connect.
“We are thrilled with this outcome from the competition. It’s very powerful not only in validating the science from the clinical trials, but also validating our plan to commercialise this product in 2021,” Dr Rosemary Craig said.
“NASA has requested us to send a sample to the International Space Station for astronauts to test in micro and zero gravity. And following this week’s announcement of Australia partnering with the NASA Artemis Accord, our technology could on the mission where the first female astronaut walks on the moon in 2024.
“We have the support of the Australian Space Agency and are looking to trial the dressing with the Australian Antarctic Division, where the extreme polar conditions create a testing ground for situations in space.”
The start-up has obtained Australian Government research funding through CSIRO ON Program. The team has now partnered with Sydney medical manufacturing company Romar Engineering to complete a feasibility study by the end of the year for large-scale manufacturing to launch the Rapid Repair product in March 2021. The team has begun initial discussions with two of the top three companies in the global wound-care market.
Dr Craig first tested her wound healing hypothesis and product on herself when she suffered an accidental cut several years ago and saw remarkable improvement result.
Last year the first clinical trial of 30 people was completed, and the team is preparing for the second trial to begin this month in partnership with University of Queensland.
“Our first customers are a network of 34 skin cancer clinics in Victoria who specialise in managing a variety of skin cancers and excision wounds. They have begun independent trials of Rapid Repair. We are planning additional clinical trials at Australian hospital emergency departments and operating theatres in 2021. We also have vets in Australia and the United States who are keen to begin using the technology,” Dr Craig said.
“Here on earth our product has incredible potential to change patient wound care for both humans and animals. There may be resistance from some medical professionals at first as the product is so different from the stitching methods that have been used for thousands of years – however Rapid Repair can still be used in conjunction with stitches to reduce healing time and for better scar outcomes. We can expand on this technology to specifically treat different areas of ligaments, tendons and skin types and we want to make this non-invasive, non-toxic Rapid Repair the gold standard in wound care.”
Rapid Repair has Australian registration as a Class One medical device (no. 331993) is patented with the international Patent Cooperation Treaty and is being registered with the relevant bodies in Europe and Asia. The product is so innovative and unique even the Global Medical Device Nomenclature (GMDN) Agency had to issue a new code for the dressing as no similar medical device had previously been registered.
Watch the team's presentation to the judging panel below: