Research that Matters, Episode 4: Building health solutions
Research that Matters is a 9-part podcast series featuring researchers from Torrens University Australia, who are working towards solving complex global problems and propelling innovation. For more information, and to access all other episodes in the series, click here.
From vaccines to antibiotics, health and medical research has improved, extended, and saved lives. In this episode, our researchers talk about the need to build a new GP model of care for Australia’s rapidly ageing population. You’ll also find out about a ground-breaking cardiac device that could transform heart care, especially in developing countries.
Host: Clement Paligaru (in bold)
Guests: Professor Justin Beilby (JB)
Professor Craig McLachlan (CG)
If David Robinson and George Kossoff, hadn't teamed up at the ultrasonic research group of the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories, back in 1961, they may never have built Australia's first ultrasound scanner.
Picture a world without research.
It would be a world where we wouldn't have successful pregnancies thanks to IVF embryo freezing. A world where multifocal contact lenses didn't exist and people couldn't focus on multiple distances, and a world where a loved one's dangerous heart rhythm, couldn't be returned to normal thanks to artificial pacemakers.
Research can make everyday life better.
CM: Research matters very much because you're trying to solve problems in society that have not been solved yet - such as a lot of medical conditions, you've improved and stabilised them, but you haven't fixed them. And the body is completely a very complex system, and I don't think anyone ever fully understands it even though we’re always trying to.
Research gives us the ability to make quantum leaps.
JB: We need new knowledge. We need to develop new ideas. Research gives you new paradigms, gives you new perspectives, it gives you different answers, it makes you think about where we are as a society. We would not be as sophisticated as we currently are if we didn't have research.
Research helps shape the next generation of thinkers.
CM: My legacy would be that I've had a lot of students and they've had a nice journey and I've made a significant difference to their lives. And also, that we filled in some incremental gaps in research and that's driven new research. So, as a researcher, you don't always want to get the Nobel Prize - you want to solve some problems that leads to a new research direction.
JB: A number of the PhD students that have graduated at Torrens in the last seven years are now currently academics and staff. They have the passion, they have the understanding of the importance of research, how you craft it, how it's a long haul. You have to be patient. You have to be ambitious.
You have to test your thinking. And that's what they bring to the discussion.
This is Research that Matters. I'm Clement Paligaru.
This series explores the work of researchers from Torrens University Australia. We'll take you behind the curtain to hear what drives their passion and the impact their work has on all of us.
In this episode, we look at building health solutions through research.
JB: About 30 years ago, I spent two years in Papua New Guinea working in the bush and got really interested in how you change structures and systems from a health service, from a big picture perspective. I worked as a remote doctor and a remote public health physician. I then came back to Australia, finished off a public health degree, and then did a PhD really building off the back of that.
Hi, I'm Professor Justin Beilby. I'm the Deputy Vice Chancellor Research at Torrens University and I lead a research team across frailty, aging, seasonality, based in Adelaide with partners across Australia. I love the power of information, the power of questioning, where you're going with structures and systems. I love looking at it from different lens, but I also like bringing that back to the reality of the patients that I see every day as a GP.
I began my career in asthma and then looking at how you better manage asthma in general practice in a day-to-day sense. That informed the clinical trials that I became part of in the past.
Professor Beilby continues to combine his work in research with his frontline role as a GP. These days, you'll find him investigating a new proposed model of care for older people.
JB: We're aware that as people age, they get frail, but no one's really looked at it from a holistic whole of person multidisciplinary perspective. And over the last five years, working with Adelaide University, with some universities on the east coast, in New South Wales and Victoria, and as part of the Torrens team, we've been able to develop a new integrated, positive, proactive model that we're looking to test into the future.
Frailty affects about 20 per cent of people as they age. And there is clear evidence that if you screen early and implement, you will make a difference to people's lives.
If I look at management of older people in the community, it's often reactive. It's single disease. It's looking at medication management or it's looking at whether they're safe at home.
This new model is about integrating drug management, exercise, nutrition, overall care into a model that encompasses a personalised approach. And that's what we've been testing, that's what we've been clarifying.
And it's a subject that was beamed into Australian loungerooms throughout the charming ABC TV series, Old People's Home For Four-Year-Olds. Other than tugging at the heartstrings, that series showed us firsthand, what can be done to improve the quality of life for older Australians.
Professor Beilby says there's a clear lesson in that program about the power of empowerment.
JB: There's one beautiful scene with a little boy and a lady walking on a walker. And the four-year-old says to the lady, ‘yes you can walk down the hill, we can get this down to the park at the bottom of the hill’.
That's what this is about. Empowering and giving people confidence. It's the value of exercise, the value of good diet, the value of personalised older care.
But building new health solutions takes time. It's not just something that happens overnight, and delivering the sort of complete care Professor Beilby talks about involves drawing on multiple disciplines.
It's also about creating partnerships with patients and healthcare providers and extending that to academia and policy makers.
JB: There's no way we would have achieved what we did with this frailty research with just a single perspective, a single facet. We had geriatricians, exercise physiologists, pharmacists, pharmacologists, GPs, research fellows, postdoctoral students, and nursing.
The beauty is the team, and you'd look at a different model of answering a different question. For example, one of the groups we worked with was a knowledge translation team who have skills and are renowned globally for what they do in knowledge translation. So, when you work with a consumer perspective, a co-designed perspective on what actually matters to people as they age, you get a completely different perspective away from the medical or a disease focus.
That's the beauty of this research and that's the power of what we did at Torrens with the partners we developed and partnerships. Complex issues require complex facets and complex perspectives to answer a question.
We looked at a couple of general practices - one in the city and one in the country - where we looked at screening with a set of screening tools, for people who are older - looking at whether they are frail or non-frail or pre-frail. We were able to define those tools, work out how you could integrate them into clinical practice and how you could fit them into a normal busy GPs or primary carers life.
We had to get engagement with the practices, engagement with the patients. A number of those patients were actually mine and we had to explain why we were doing this research and how helpful it would be.
And then thirdly, and probably just as significantly in the knowledge translation space, we developed a series of videos and series of education materials.
You work with actual older people who are becoming frail, who have very strong views of what matters to them. So, the issue of whether they have medications or whether they have exercise or strength training was what we took together as we built the model.
The new model will aim to change how we tackle frailty.
We found that about 20 per cent of people were basically frail and 20 per cent of people were pre-frail. If we identified them with appropriate screening tools and we actually identified the right one for the Australian sector, we were able to actually then intervene to prove it better - to improve their lives basically.
The next task is to then look at how you integrate that into a busy, probably traditional form of general practice or primary care where people react to illnesses at the time. And the key thing at the moment is to make sure that we now test that formally and only by testing it can we actually change health policy and the use of the Medical Benefits Scheme to make it better for people as they age.
Testing the new model has meant working very closely with individuals one-on-one and at times some of the patients were found to be struggling.
JB: An older person who basically was getting very negative, they had lost their partner. When we screened them, we found that they were actually quite pre-frail. Their muscle strength wasn't good, their bones were particularly strong, and they were on multiple medications.
It's the little things of talking through with that person, that older person who was actually a patient in front of me. It was just starting to exercise - to actually exercise more frequently, stopping some of the medications the patient was on. The energy that then came back to that person when they came in and took control of their lives was very positive.
If I can get a bit personal, Justin, what about your own parents? Are you able to see the benefits of your work in their living.
JB: My parents passed away about 10 years ago. It's probably more to the point of looking at colleagues’ parents, friends parents.
One of my best friend's mother who had lost her partner, he lost his father, she moved into a residential village and she's now thriving. She's actually growing in confidence. She's eating well again and her nutrition is good. She's exercising within the building and has basically turned around the latter part of her life.
That's how I see it working. That's what we need to try and do as we move forward.
The data collected from the patients that were initially screened for this research is now starting to roll in. So, what comes next?
JB: Following up those patients that we saw two years ago to look at how they've aged, to look at how frail they've got. Did our screening make any difference to their lives with what we were trying to do?
I think that data will show clearly what's happening. If you screen early, treat early with prefrail people, life can be significantly improved for people in their lives. That's the bit we're trying to do. That then feeds into policy, feeds into education, and you shift the debate over a period of three or four years.
That's the nature of research and as you build a story with this type of research program, it's a five-to-10-year program. These take a long time to mature, and if you're wanting to grow and develop new models, there are complex discussions at a policy, financial, clinical, educational sense, which we're now entering into.
We had a reference group - we had an advisory group, which had some of the key aged care providers in South Australia and across Australia. It was actually chaired by a well-known politician who sits in Adelaide. He gave us some very good advice about how you affect policy. The next task is to gather the funding so that we can actually test it properly.
We have a number of grants still in at the moment with the National Health and Medical Research Council and that's part of the research journey. It's a very competitive space in Australia. We know we've got the right model. We've written to the Health Minister requesting a meeting, and that's an area that we have to continue to focus on.
You have to win the grants. And we got lucky as a team, five years ago, we won a National Health and Medical Research CRE grant, which has funded this research from scratch. It's about the team. Funding is the lifeblood of researchers. We have to support them. You need internal pilot funding or start-up funding to test models, but funding is the be-all-and-end-all.
While the final scorecard from this research is yet to emerge, there are already clear signs of its positive impact.
JB: Over the next 12 months, we'll close off the actual final impact discussion, but we're clearly getting impact as evidenced by the international guidelines that our team were part of. That's now been published and has been cited – has been cited all over the world. That's the way you feed into the process of clinical care.
The publications we put out there have been picked up. A number of the people I work with have contributed to some international guidelines around screening and primary care. The publications, the debates, the discussions with the politicians, talking to the minister of health, talking to politicians who have an interest in aged care is part of what you have to do as your research.
If you do your research in isolation and don't learn to propagate it, to develop it, to focus it, to develop the story that people can use in policy and clinical and educational practice, then it doesn't seem worthwhile to do it. It's part of the process that you need to translate the findings back into clinical practice.
You affect the guidelines you affect clinical practice, you affect education. That's part of the journey that you do when you tackle complex problems with multidisciplinary teams from a primary care and GP perspective.
At the moment we have approximately 2.5 million Australians over the age of 65, and that's expected to reach over 7 million by 2051.
In other words, about a quarter of our entire nation, which is huge right? I suspect there is real urgency to your research. Given those numbers, how important would you say this research is?
JB: There are many competing priorities with research. That's the reality, whether it be heart disease or new infectious diseases, or COVID which we've just gone through.
The biggest challenge for the community is how we craft a new way of helping people as they age. It will become an increasingly more important priority.
The 7 million people you've mentioned in 2015 – 25 per cent will be frail or pre-frail. That's a million and a half to 2 million people that will need models that are personalised and allow them to exercise, gather their strength and not end up with medical conditions that are preventable, if frailty is managed in a proactive sense.
This is a new paradigm. It's a disease that's not perceived at the moment to be as important as other disease, such as the common cardiovascular, or diabetes. But as society and people age, more and more of the team approach aged care, the personalised approach to aged care - as the baby boomers head into the sixties and seventies they are going to demand more control over their healthcare, more control over their lives.
We have a paradigm that's very much in the reactive, negative, and the phrase that people talk about is ageism. As you get into your 60s and 70s, there's nothing much you can do to make your quality of life improve. That is just so wrong.
What we need to do now is flip it on its head, empower them, change their finances, use digital tools, use exercise, nutrition, actually give them options to build a new life for the next 25 years - in a way that's about empowering a group of people who will be a significant chunk of our society.
Some of the things that are beginning to surface is the digital experience - using Fitbits or apps to actually monitor what's going on with your exercise and nutrition. It's a great place to be in and a great place to work, as we define a new paradigm, moving forward. It’s exciting for general practice, exciting for primary care, but really importantly, the answers belong in a multidisciplinary team.
Frailty is in essence a disease for 20 per cent of people as they age. And if you get it classed as a disease, you can get access to the Medical Benefits Scheme - for example, in general practice you can build care plans and team care arrangements. But my personal view is that it's so focused on one part of the person.
I think the word that's going to increasingly become important as we look to people as they age is the personalised approach. What matters to someone in their 60s is an individual issue. What matters in their disease model, what matters in their medications is what suits that individual.
We have to empower the consumers to demand that they actually get access to an integrated approach to their lives in a way that allows them to own it, to build it, to really push the medical profession and the primary care or the allied health and the geriatricians, to demand what they want into the future.
Screening for frailty is about empowerment. It's not just another disease. It's about saying you can do something about this, if you're pre-frail and we can actually help you prevent it getting worse.
The aged care industry has been under intense scrutiny due to the pandemic failures and other damning evidence from a royal commission prior to that, will your research help solve some of those issues that have plagued the aged care sector?
JB: My view is that it will help shape a different paradigm. It will move to - probably the best example is moving general practice and if you look at the commission, that's the area that I focus on in my research. There was number of new suggestions in the commission report, recommendations around different GP models and primary care models.
Our research has the ability to inform that policy debate, inform how we tackle the issue of aging from a new GP model - probably then development of people who have a passion and interest in working with people who are older.
Not every GP wants to do that. Not every primary care practice wants to work in that space, but it’s so richly rewarding and that's what we found. Little subtle change, both in their exercise or nutrition or medication - stopping medications, a simple thing to do makes people's lives at the end of their 60s and 70s - makes life so much more enjoyable.
Justin, you also continue to work on a new research project with Professor Simon Stewart, who is one of our leading researchers in heart and lung disease and was featured in another episode in this podcast series.
Now together, you're looking at new models to tackle environmental and seasonal influences that affect a person's health. How's that research tracking and how are your findings likely to shape and shift everyday life for some people.
JB: That's a fantastic piece of work and working with Simon's a real pleasure. But the effect of the environment, seasons, the bushfires, climate change, is a new area of focus and gathering the data to prove that there is a change at the end of winter with people's cardiac output's is part of the new paradigm.
Research is about cutting edge. It's about being at the forefront, trying to clarify new models that influence people's care and improve people's outcomes. The work is moving along quite beautifully.
There's a significant grant in partnership with universities from Melbourne. We're doing some work from a primary care perspective. We'll test the effective environment within a set of general practices and look at people who are vulnerable to environmental influences.
And it's so pertinent at a time of increasing priority of climate change, floods fires - we are really going to have to tackle this one front on. And I think that's one of the important things for us at Torrens, with our commitment to the sustainable development goals, it fits neatly into our view of life, our view as a university and it's a pleasure to see this work grow with Simon,
Cultivating this sort of research to be able to build health solutions and make a real difference to people's lives takes great dedication. It's a journey that Professor Craig McLachlan has also been on for the past 25 years.
CM: I was very interested originally in doing medicine and I did a PhD in experimental medicine involving surgery and things like that. I did try medicine in Ireland for a couple of months, and I just had the research bug and I just had to come back. I missed it so much.
I’m Professor Craig McLaughlin, Director for the Centre For Healthy Futures and I do hybrid research across cardiovascular research and public health.
It means a lot to me that we can make a difference in people's lives, either through high technology or even just by measuring people's blood pressure in Nepal, for example, to make sure that telling them that they've got blood pressure and saying, ‘maybe you need to get some treatment and you can prevent a stroke’.
In the time that Professor McLaughlin has been building his substantial research portfolio, he's had some real breakthroughs. He co-authored a trailblazing case study, which detailed the first in-human use of aortic stents in the heart.
An aortic stent is a metal skeleton inside a fabric graft. The stent fits inside the aorta and this creates a tunnel so blood can pass through safely.
It's a technology now used globally in the treatment of aortic dissection. That's when the inner layer of the large blood vessel branching off the heart tears.
CM: This work with the aortic dissection was done with Dr. Peter Mossop down at St Vincent's Hospital.
He really pioneered this technique, so it was an absolute honour to work with someone of this calibre to pioneer technology that can treat a disease where you normally had to open someone up. And when you open them up and replace the blood vessels, they’re at high risk of getting paraplegia because you're getting not enough blood flow to the spine.
So, this circumvented this whole problem, and it's been really uptaken by all endovascular interventional doctors around the world.
Much like the aortic stent Professor McLaughlin’s latest research could change the course of heart care and heart disease treatment. This time with a new type of cardiac device.
CM: One area of the heart, which is the main tube that comes out, which is the aorta, that pumps blood around the body - the aorta gets stiff over time, and we're just trying to restore compliance back to a stiff tube. That's where we're applying devices on the outside of the aorta to allow it to stretch a bit more and recoil back - you lose that property as you tend to age.
That's a risk factor for coronary artery disease, heart failure, and also even now dementia, people have seen that stiff aortas correlate with that. So, we see that it has an application for acute intervention. So, if someone's having heart surgery, it may improve coronary blood flow while they're having heart surgery - if they're doing off pump bypass surgery.
We also see that there's an application for this device, for people that do have early-stage heart failure, you can put the device in and we also think it can complement existing technologies, including other heart assist devices.
The opportunities are, like we did with the aortic stent, to change the course of treatment throughout clinical networks, which would be ideal. It can also improve people's outcomes because we know that people that have heart failure do not always live a long life, so we want to make a difference there.
As people age, we see an increase in heart failure as well, so we want more simplistic, easy to apply devices, which are not so complex and strenuous on the body to implant. So that would be a key thing.
The main thing with any technology, when you're pioneering a new direction is getting clinical uptake and convincing people that this really does work and is not pie in the sky.
While the origins of this research started off somewhat traditionally with animal and human subjects, it now relies on computer simulation.
CM: We've done pig studies and when we did them in China, we did PET/CTs on their hearts and looked at perfusion.
So, we've tried historically, the previous versions of this device, even in a human in India. It was very low risk in terms of what we're doing, and we profiled the patients very well and they consented to doing this. So, it was just in two patients just to see the efficacy of the device and see if the concept would work and we could see that the concept did work.
But what we're pioneering in Torrens is simulating human conditions, such as from MRI scans, from CT scans and reconstructing the vascular system in a computer simulation model where we can then apply our devices to that.
So that's good for people that don't like animal work and can improve our device just by simulations. So, this is pioneering work, I think.
There are many different elements of the device development pathway. This has changed, so we can refine the device then to take back into patient trials.
We're at the stage of prototyping again, testing, evaluating, and it's not unusual for devices to go through many developmental steps and come back and tweak them and re-engineer them, test them and so forth.
A device like this is good for the heart and the hip pocket.
As far as some countries go, it could help fill in an essential need for more cost-effective solutions. So that means compared to standard devices that are available right now, this device is a cheaper and more accessible alternative.
CM: This is a very simple, self-powered device that you could put it in a developing country. So, it gives more power to the surgeon or the community to uptake new technologies that could benefit patients that only had drug therapy available, or minor types of surgery available, where the surgery lab might not be well equipped.
I think this gives a more equitable solution to developing countries in need of more simple devices to treat heart disease.
Certainly, developed countries could uptake the technology as well. I'm just suggesting that it's a technology not only suitable for high tech operating theatres in Australia or the UK, for example, but it could also be placed in patients like India and Nepal and other countries such as that.
Instead of getting to the stage where you might need a heart transplant or a full mechanical heart - when they get to that stage, this may bridge the gap and stabilise them and actually reverse their heart failure.
If you put in a pacemaker, you need technicians to handle the pacemaker and things like that. So having simple technology, thats self-powered, a mechanical type device, if you like, will solve some of these issues in developing countries, that once you put them in, it should be good to go.
There are trickle trickle-down benefits for industry as well. Turns out building a simulation platform for testing devices is very useful.
CM: If industry or another start-up wishes to test a device, but doesn’t have the capital yet to go and do clinical trials - more at the incremental stage, but would like some support to go and get venture capital, then I think our platform would be ideal.
I also see that in terms of developing a device like ours, you'll need industry partnerships, particularly around going and commercialising it further. Because once you get to the point where you've got approval for it to use, then there's a whole team of salespeople you need to tap into, and you can't do that yourself. It's just cost prohibitive. You would always be looking for a big group to actually take up the technology.
If another group has technology that they want to test on our test bed, that could be through biotech networks that could come and have a chat to us and see if they'd like to trial it. For example, we've chatted internally about testing new stent technology in blood vessels and we could do that and see if it improves blood flow or compliance around where the stent is.
That would be an example of the types of things we could do with industry or a start-up that's got a new device technology in that area.
I also see that the other side of the coin, if we're developing devices, then early chatting with industry, particularly around what they’d require to see in a license or a partnership commercialisation process.As money dries up during COVID, partnerships are probably the key.
People say, well, maybe we could do some simulation testing to still generate data and build our portfolio documents. So, I see that as highly important for people to know about what we're doing in terms of simulations and testing technology, and also feeding back to them what may be an improvement in their technologies.
But not all Professor McLaughlin's research focuses on computer simulation.
On the more hands-on end of the spectrum, his research has taken him to Nepal to tackle the problem of high blood pressure. It's meant getting acquainted with difficult terrain.
CM: It's a fragmented regional area, where health services do not always reach. If you ever look at a YouTube video and someone’s riding on a motorbike, going on these little tiny tracks where they could fall off a mountain cliff, it'll give you some idea of the terrain that you need to go across to bring health services into communities.
We look at health from a community perspective and at the household level and try to improve health outcomes, particularly with blood pressure management, nutrition, and some health information around lifestyle factors such as exercise, smoking and alcohol. Simple things like that can go a long way to prevent cardiovascular disease.
We also work with the international society for blood pressure, where we screen once a year in the month of May, as many people as we can for their blood pressure. That tells us how many people are hypertensive in the community, how many people might have high blood pressure - know about it, but are not meeting their treatment targets or forgetting to take their meds.
This is another health education message that we can feed back to the Ministry of Health in Nepal for more support, more referral through primary care networks. This is also interesting, in the sense we collaborate with an NGO, and NGOs are pioneering a lot of the community health initiatives in Nepal.
To be working with an NGO, and I know that a lot of Nepalese students who come to do our Master of Public Health want to go back and work for an NGO. So, it's nice to have that connection.
Back on home ground Professor McLaughlin has also spearheaded a research project that could be described as famous.
He and his team were responsible for reviewing the impact of the Biggest Loser program, which was a hit on Australian TV for quite some time. That research project looked at the nutrition and also weight changes in the Victorian town of Ararat.
So, what were the benefits coming out of that research?
CM: At a community level, the community engaged the program, and they had their own break-off program where they were not on TV. They actually started doing their own fitness program and doing exercise and eating more healthily.
So, we got to see that, but part of our program was to go back and screen for cardiovascular disease and look for problems in the community which were hidden. And when you go into rural towns, you get a bit of pushback – a lot of people say, ‘nothing wrong with me, mate, I'm okay’.
It was a real eye opener to see that even though they'd lost weight and had some benefit in terms of their health, it's not always sustainable and sometimes people can slip back. Maybe there wasn't so much fruit and vegetables being eaten, and it's another wake up call to keep on delivering health messages to communities to stay healthy.
We've discussed this a lot and maybe it's not so much to say we want to look at what's wrong with you, but how to optimise yourself to be a better improvement of yourself - and what we can do to do that. So that may resonate a little bit better.
That's maybe something that we'll trial within the community to see if a different health approach actually gives more uptake into the program for screening and improving health outcomes.
The innovation centre for Samsung, on their website they said they were wanting to test this watch-type device, which they call the Simband. And basically that was a novel measure back then to look at ECG, heart rate and some blood pressure dynamics. And they had some fancy stuff on there.
I said, well, would you be interested in testing it in a rural environment in Ararat?
We started to test the Simband watch device down there and that was a unique collaboration, because it was one of the first devices connected to the cloud. You know, everyone does it now, but back then it was a bit more pioneering and pioneering in a rural environment as well. Actually, the director of that centre was originally from Shepperton, so being in a rural environment resonated with her.
The impact was testing new technology and I think to show that we could do partnership research with a high level technology firm in a rural area. One of my passions is always bringing high level technologies to rural areas, so they have cutting edge applications for screening for health conditions.
So that kind of met that purpose and agenda that we had at the time
When it comes to achieving research outcomes, Professor McLachlan says the secret lies in one thing - building networks.
CM: It's important to build up your networks and your friendships in terms of having like-minded individuals around you to push each other gently to get outputs.
I think that's a very nice team approach to achieve outcomes. At UNSW, I used to work there and be Director of Research for the rural clinical schools.
Some of those rural projects we've brought across to Torrens and re-established, our networks. And one example of that was Shea Wilcox, who was doing his PhD at UNSW, came to Torrens and completed it and he had some good connections through radiation oncology on the mid north coast.
Since he's graduated and come back as an adjunct, he starting to bring some of his GP network and other doctors who are interested in that area back into the fold. If you maintain your connections and your collaborations, it's always good to look at new projects and restart projects that you had through your collaborative network.
My advice to anyone who's a junior academic is to find good collaborations, but you just can't come and say to someone that I want to collaborate. You’ve got to know what you can value-add to that collaboration. It's important to know thy self and what you're bringing to the table, and then you can barter that as well.
So, with all that in mind, what's the vision for the Centre of Healthy Futures.
CM: The vision for the centre is around innovation, incremental advances in knowledge, and some broad themes in global health as well and rural health. So, we have a number of small clusters that we're focusing on. We've obviously got medical devices.
We work around some big data that we're acquiring in the cardiovascular space. We're interested in bioinformatics where we use tools to understand drug targets and genetics of the drivers of disease. We're interested in complimentary medicine because that's something that we do here.
I've got a PhD student looking at aromatherapy and what that may be doing to the brain. So, we're doing some very interesting things there.
We also dabble in mental health and neuroscience. So, I think they're the key areas that we're working in and we're just building momentum in those spaces.
In the next episode of Research that Matters.
Associate Professor Ali Mirjalili: We are the most intelligent creature on this planet and of course, that leads us to success. And those natural intelligences can be simulated or mimicked in the machine, right? When we get the machine to behave intelligently, that is what we call artificial intelligence.
Research that Matters was produced by Written & Recorded. This is a Torrens University Australia podcast, and I'm Clement Paligaru. To hear more, search for Research that Matters on the Torrens University website or wherever you get your podcasts.