The Robinson Research Institute seeks to translate research discoveries into improved clinical care and policy, and to deliver new technologies, treatments and therapies for the health of all children and families, across generations and global communities.
Clinical translation examples
Global Obstetrics Network (GONet)
In 2010, Professor Ben Mol co-initiated the Global Obstetric Network, which he leads as Chair. The primary goal of this network is to facilitate a worldwide collaborative approach to clinical trials and observational studies in the field of maternal-fetal medicine and obstetrics.
During the last five years GONet has developed or completed 10 individual patient data meta-analyses from merged large data sets of randomised studies, defined uniform and relevant endpoints for clinical trials in preterm birth, and facilitated the development of clinical guidelines.
GONet has been invited to present its philosophy for collaborative research at the annual general meeting of the Global Coalition to Advance Preterm birth Research, a coalition of the main funders for preterm birth research around the world.
Preterm Birth International Collaborative (PREBIC)
The Preterm Birth International Collaborative is a multinational collaboration of clinicians and research scientists. The collaboration aims to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes, thereby optimising infant health and long-term development.
Professor Ben Mol is a member of PREBIC, and has played an instrumental role in the scientific meetings and workshops. These workshops provide an opportunity for members to meet and discuss the latest developments in preterm birth research, identify knowledge gaps, and plan future projects.
World Health Organisation Taskforce
Associate Professor Helen Marshall was appointed to the World Health Organisation Taskforce to: Evaluate influenza to inform vaccine impact and economic modeling, particularly in relation to maternal influenza immunisation.
While this taskforce seeks to inform maternal influenza vaccination programs globally, it has a particular focus on low resource settings, and evaluates the evidence of the burden of influenza, and the safety and effectiveness of influenza vaccines in pregnant women.
Additionally, the taskforce will review the evidence of the impact of influenza on the developing fetus, including the potential for congenital abnormalities from influenza infection in early pregnancy. The taskforce will develop guidelines to inform decision-making for the introduction of influenza vaccine programs in low resource countries.
NHMRC Embryo Research Licensing Committee
Professor Robert Norman AO has been a member of the NHMRC Embryo Research Licensing Committee for the past six years. This committee is involved in regulating human embryo research and embryonic stem cell development from laboratories throughout Australia.
The Committee meets every three months to discuss research proposals in the areas of embryonic stem cell research, human embryo culture and training for procedures such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis biopsies.
Additionally the committee is heavily involved in discussion regarding mitochondrial transfer, development of embryonic stem cell lines for particular diseases and research into their origins and treatment, and authorisation of the use of embryos for development of new culture techniques and equipment.
Expert Panel to the NHMRC
The Australian Research Centre for Health of Women and Babies (ARCH) team, led by Philippa Middleton, was re-appointed to the NHMRC panel of providers with expertise relevant to the development and presentation of evidence based health advice. ARCH continues to develop the national evidence-based antenatal care guidelines.
Perinatal Practice and Guidelines
Professor Jodie Dodd is actively involved in translating research findings into improved clinical practice and health policy. Through her role as Chair of the South Australian Maternal and Neonatal Clinical Network and Chair of the SA Maternal and Perinatal Mortality Committee, she regularly contributes to the development of statewide perinatal practice guidelines and policy documents, which promote evidence-based health care within hospitals and the wider perinatal community.
Her research findings have improved clinical practice in South Australia with several states developing subsequent guidelines based on the South Australian model. Additionally her findings have been incorporated into the United Kingdom’s guidelines relating to the management of women with twin pregnancies.
Guidelines for PCOS
In collaboration with Monash University, RRI members are developing clinical guidelines for the evaluation, management and health care needs of polycystic ovary syndrome through the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence.
The guidelines have been distributed to every general practitioner and specialist in Australia. The CRE are forming a taskforce to implement their guidelines internationally, which will significantly impact the health and treatment of millions of women around the world living with PCOS.
Antenatal Corticosteriod Guidelines
Professor Caroline Crowther and Associate Professor Philippa Middleton were part of a bi-national, multidisciplinary development panel that prepared the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Practice Guidelines for Antenatal Corticosteroids given to women prior to birth to improve fetal, infant, child and adult health.
These guidelines identify research priorities and provide clinical practice recommendations for administration of antenatal corticosteriods to women at risk of preterm birth, women having an elective caesarean section at term, and women with diabetes during pregnancy.
Associate Professor Helen Marshall's research team identified that pregnant women often miss out on life-saving immunisations and as such established the Adelaide Immunisation Centre of Excellence within the Women's and Children's Hospital.
The midwife-led immunisation program has resulted in pregnant women increasing uptake of the pertussis vaccine (whooping cough) from 20% to 82% and the influenza vaccine from 30% to 75%. The majority of pregnant women attending the Women's and Children's Hospital and their newborn babies are now protected against potentially life-threatening infections as a result of this clinic.
Commercial development examples
In April 2013 the first baby was born in Australia using EmbryoGen®, a treatment product for miscarriage containing cytokine Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF).
Developed in collaboration with Origio A/S, EmbryoGen® offers a novel treatment option for women undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) after a history of one or more miscarriages. Professor Sarah Robertson, who spent more than 20 years working on cytokine regulation of embryo development, leads the science behind the technology. The key to its success is the technology's ability to closely mimic the natural environment of the uterus and support early embryo growth and firm implantation.
The work has entered a new phase with new trials to evaluate second-generation formulation. A blastocyst culture medium containing GMCSF, marketed as BlastGen® is currently in trial in partnership with Fertility SA and other international partners.
IVF Vet Solutions
The IVF Vet Solutions business unit, led by Associate Professor Jeremy Thompson, provides services to the human and veterinary IVF market. This includes the Mouse Embryo Assay (MEA), a quality assurance test for media and other products used in IVF. A variety of national and international companies and reproductive medicine clinics utilise this service.
The unit has also developed a suite of bovine IVF media, with significant sales of media to Australian Reproductive Technologies PTY LTD and OVASEM PTY LTD. The media is being exported to a number of countries including Canada, South Africa and USA.
Production and supply of antibodies
Professor David Kennaway has a commercial partnership with Buhlmann Laboratories involving the supply and use of antibodies that form the active agents in assays to detect the hormone melatonin. The antibodies are incorporated into kits sold by Buhlmann to measure melatonin for laboratory and clinical applications in Australia and around the world.
Collaboration with Cook Medical
Several Institute Research Leaders enjoy a strong relationship with Cook Medical LLC - a privately owned medical device company based in Bloomington Indiana, USA. Cook make over 30,000 medical and surgical products, and their Women's Health Division is a global producer of IVF products.
For the past 10+ years, Cook have partnered on grants, engaged Associate Professor Jeremy Thompson as a consultant, and supported several research projects which focus on development of assisted reproductive technologies, especially in collaboration with The University of New South Wales and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium).
Cook have supported patent filings related to these technologies, and also resourced the Robinson Research Institute to fund the China Exchange Grant. Cook is a commercial partner in a Premiers Science Research Fund and Australian Research Council Linkage Grants related to the Sensing Technologies and Advanced Reproduction Research lab, which is a joint project between the Robinson Research Institute and the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS).
As part of a biomarker discovery program jointly funded by the CRC for Biomarker translation and the NHMRC, a novel biomarker of immune cell subsets PI16, also named CD364, has been developed by Associate Professor Simon Barry.
Beckton Dickenson now licenses this biomarker for sale on the international market. The antibody is being tested for diagnostic utility in a number of diseases including type1 diabetes IBD and infertility, and is a new tool to advance research into regulatory T lymphocytes in laboratories around the world.
Cell Therapy manufacturing
In 2014 a new $63 million CRC for Cell Therapy Manufacturing was jointly established with the University of South Australia, with Associate Professor Simon Barry leading the T cell therapy programme. This CRC aims to develop novel cell manufacturing devices and protocols aimed at increasing the availability and reducing the cost of cell therapy.