Microsoft throws $100K at Sydney Uni medical research

First local bioelectronics course now available

Dr Alistair McEwan at the School of Electrical and Information Engineering, Sydney University

Dr Alistair McEwan at the School of Electrical and Information Engineering, Sydney University

Software giant Microsoft has awarded a $100,000 grant to a University of Sydney academic for research into the development of electrical devices for diagnosis and monitoring of strokes and cardiovascular diseases.

Dr Alistair McEwan from the School of Electrical and Information Engineering was awarded the Microsoft fellowship for his ongoing work in “bioelectronics”, which the university describes as an emerging field combining electrical engineering and biology.

McEwan is researching the electrode-skin interface with the aim of improving emergency diagnosis of heart attacks and strokes and long-term monitoring of cardiovascular disease. He is the university’s leading bioelectronics researcher.

Sydney University’s research includes the development of low-cost electronic devices to detect newborn malnutrition, obesity and diabetes in the developing world. This year McEwan started teaching Australia’s first specialist undergraduate bioelectronics degree.

Microsoft is involved with a number of research support programs in Australia and last year announced partnerships with NICTA, the Australian National University and CSIRO. In 2007 the company partnered with Queensland University of Technology for a $2.7 million climate change eResearch centre.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also granted funding to local researchers working on green energy technology.

McEwan said the Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship grant will bring forward pre-clinical trials of improved electrical devices able to diagnose heart attacks and strokes sooner and with greater accuracy. He hopes to bring the devices to trial in 2015.

“Current devices are limited by movement at the interface between the electrodes and the body,” McEwan said.

“This movement introduces error in bioelectronic recording, wasting precious time and limiting use of monitoring devices outside hospitals. A good example of this is movement of defibrillator electrodes during CPR, thought to limit the number of successful resuscitations by up to 50 per cent. Electrical impedance measurements are very sensitive to movement, normally considered a source of noise.”

McEwan’s work uses a number of “impedance measurements” in parallel to adaptively condition “multi-electrode array based sensors”.

Researchers use this information to improve the biological signal with advanced signal processing techniques such as compressed sensing.

“More efficient diagnosis, particularly of strokes, improves patients’ likelihood of recovery,” McEwan said. “The potential patient outcomes of this grant are very exciting.”

McEwan is the first Australian university-based recipient of a Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship grant.

Follow Rodney Gedda on Twitter: @rodneygedda

Follow TechWorld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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