The Australian Lung Health Initiative (ALHI) has been awarded an initial Phase 1 grant of A$960k by the Australian Government, for the development of a world-first zero-dose pediatric lung scanner. The funding is part of the Australian Government’s A$20 billion Medical Research Future Fund, designed to fast-track the commercialisation of new and novel technology. Phase 2 of the grant allows for funding of between A$10 million–A$20 million a year for five years, for the continued development and implementation of the technology.
This project delivers ground-breaking lung imaging technology that is safe, rapid and easy to use, while providing detailed analysis for patients at any age, filling the critical unmet need for accurate and sensitive lung health assessment tools for infants and young children.
Currently, the requirement for a significant radiation dose makes lung imaging in children a major problem, and paediatricians are crying out for a safer option. Additionally, current lung checks typically require patients to sit still or follow special instructions, something often impossible for the old, the very unwell, and for children under the age of six. The six-year project brings together world-leading scientists, engineers, manufacturers and medical researchers to revolutionise lung screening and treatment, based on disruptive Australian XV technologyTM and new low-dose imaging science.
Conceived by Australian medical technology company 4Dx, the patented XV technology is four-dimensional lung function imaging analysis that uniquely and non-invasively measures lung function in real-time within the breathing lungs. This enables highly detailed maps of lung ventilation patterns and airflow, which allow clinicians effectively to visualise and quantify the motion of within the lungs in high resolution, enabling pinpoint identification of deficits in ventilation.
The technology provides more detailed information and faster validation of treatment with reduced radiation exposure, while also allowing for the earlier detection of disease.
The Medical Research Future Fund grant will allow ALHI to build on 4Dx’s unique and patented technology, to develop of a world-first zero-dose paediatric scanner.
“The MRFF Frontiers Grant is truly visionary, both in scope and size, and will make a real impact in Australia’s innovation ecosystem,” says Prof Andreas Fouras, founder of 4Dx and the CEO and Head of ALHI Scientific Committee. “We are delighted to receive this grant, and are honoured by the esteemed company in which we find ourselves.”
“Paediatric lung health is a recognised issue, and currently we don’t have the tools available to help. This grant will enable the development of a technology that specifically targets this currently neglected area. Our aim is to transform the lives of children afflicted with chronic lung disease, while developing world-leading technology that will generate significant export income and directly create jobs in high-tech manufacturing, science and clinical fields ,” says Fouras.
Devices developed from the project will deliver a substantial global health and economic impact, firmly establishing Australia at the forefront of lung science, while developing a new local high-tech industry by producing revolutionary dedicated lung function scanners. The project will deliver two distinct generations of scanners, with a global export opportunity of more than A$40 billion a year, with economic modelling predicting the project has the potential to add more than 1000 jobs and A$1 billion to the Australian economy within seven years.
The dedicated scanners, unencumbered from by legacy equipment, provide richly detailed lung function information through an optimised and automated scanning process that is faster, cheaper and delivered at a dramatically lower radiation dose than existing imaging techniques. Two models will be developed: a walk-through device suitable for adults and children as young as three; and a second generation scanner, which will be a world-first near-zero radiation dose unit used in treating more challenging patients, such as infants and children.
The ALHI will form part of a National Strategic Action Plan for Lung Conditions, in conjunction with The Lung Foundation of Australia. One in three Australians – seven million people – live with a lung condition, such as lung cancer or chronic pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and bronchiectasis. Lung conditions are Australia’s second most common cause of death, and account for more than 10% of the total health burden.
Lung Foundation CEO Mark Brooke says: “This Action Plan outlines a comprehensive, collaborative and evidence-based approach to reducing the individual and societal burden of lung conditions, and improving lung health”.