Research Platforms

The Melbourne Biomedical Precinct Partners have identified eight priority research platforms to position it in the global top 10. They reflect the Precinct’s clinical research strengths, as well as global health and disease trends and the future of science and discovery. Importantly, they also provide some of the greatest opportunities for commercialisation.

While it is recognised these are not all the research platforms of the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, this prioritisation helps guide the long term direction of Precinct Partners and help focus cooperation and alliances in and beyond the Precinct.

Digital health and clinical informatics
Data is transforming the way we understand health care. Digital health and clinical informatics represent the integration of digital technologies into all levels of health research and the provision of health care, from understanding the causes of disease and streamlining the way doctors and hospitals work, through to incorporating genomics and big data into our understanding of health and disease.
Genomics and bioinformatics
The human genome is our blueprint for life. Genomic medicine seeks to read and analyse our genome to gain insights into how each of us is different, as well as understand the causes of malfunction and disease. Bioinformatics combines mathematics, statistics and computer science to solve complex biological problems, including analysing the vast amounts of data produced by genome sequencers.
Cell and biological therapies
Cell and biological therapies use substances made from living organisms to treat disease. These substances may occur naturally in the body or be made in the laboratory. Some biological therapies stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Others attack specific cancer cells, which may help keep them from growing or kill them. Types of biological therapy include immunotherapy (such as vaccines, cytokines and some antibodies), gene therapy and some targeted therapies.
Drug discovery
Most pharmaceutical medicines are small molecule drugs, such as acetylsalicylic acid, which is the active ingredient in aspirin. These are chemically manufactured molecules that are easily ingestible and are absorbed into the bloodstream. Most regulate a biological process by binding to a ‘target’ molecule in the body, such as on the surface of a cell. The drug then modifies the activity of that target or cell, such as by preventing the production of other chemicals that cause pain and inflammation, as in the case of acetylsalicylic acid.
Stem cells and regenerative medicine
Stem cells have the remarkable ability to become any of the hundreds of specialised cells that make up our bodies. Scientists have also figured out how to ‘reprogram’ specialised cells, such as a skin cell, and revert it to a stem cell. These ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’, called iPS cells, can then be coaxed back into becoming any of the other cell types in our bodies. Regenerative medicine is the application of stem cells to repairing the damage from injury or disease.
Vaccines and immunology
Immunology is the study of the immune system, which encompasses our bodies’ natural response to invading pathogens like bacteria and viruses, as well as to cancer. By understanding how the immune system works, we can better respond to both infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases. One of our main lines of defense against many diseases is vaccines. Immunology can also help us understand what happens when the immune system wrongly targets healthy cells (e.g. autoimmune disorders).
Medical devices and implantables
A medical device is any instrument, apparatus or appliance used to diagnose, prevent or treat injury or disease. Medical devices range in complexity from an app on your smartphone through to computerised diagnostic machines. Implantable devices include an artificial hip, pacemaker or Cochlear bionic ear. Medical and implantable devices can be used for a wide range of applications, such as diagnostics, replacing injured parts of the body, or to restore or improve function.
Population health, systems and services
Population health researchers investigate how everyday factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic status and where someone lives affects their health. They also explore and assess how smart policy and targeted preventative measures can help people avoid ill health. Public policy initiatives informed by population health research, such as mandatory seat belts, immunisation programs and anti-smoking policies have already saved more lives than the efforts of all hospitals combined.