A team of Australian researchers and health professionals are launching two world-first projects to prevent disability and death in newborns, enabled by a new partnership between Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation and Hearts & Minds Investments.Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPA) and Hearts & Minds Investments Limited are delighted to announce a significant new partnership, supporting innovative research that aims to revolutionise newborn intensive care around the world.
The partnership will initially support a program of research into projects that aim to reduce disability and death in seriously ill babies – including a study on brain injuries in newborns caused by lack of oxygen, which is among the first of its kind in the world. It will also support some of Australia’s leading research and health professionals in neo-natology and bio-engineering to reduce the incidence and severity of cerebral palsy and other lifelong disabilities in children.
A leading ASX-listed investment company with a unique philanthropic focus, Hearts & Minds Investments (ASX: HM1) donates 1.5% of the total value of its managed portfolio every year to Australian medical research institutes. Head here to watch the partnership launch video. The first project, known as Virtual Baby, will use innovative artificial intelligence systems to reduce the risk of permanent brain damage in newborns.
A collaborative team of intensive care experts from Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation, the Children’s Hospital at Westmead (Sydney Children’s Hospital Network), CSIRO eHealth and Westmead Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, led by Senior Newborn Intensive Care Specialist Dr Mark Tracy, have created a unique database containing more than 1.2 million patient hours with the goal of unearthing hidden patterns of illness.
By feeding this data into Virtual Baby, predictive computer modelling will be able identify the warning signs in blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels and other health data before clinical observation can. This data can then be used by doctors and nurses to intervene earlier and improve outcomes for babies in intensive care.
The support of Hearts & Minds Investments will enable a staged expansion of this project at the Westmead campus from Westmead’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to the Westmead Children’s Hospital NICU. Longer-term plans will include the development of open-access software to be shared with all NICU units in Australia and virtual training for staff.
"Smart monitoring, smart prediction and smart training is the future for humanity – utilising big data and advanced artificial intelligence to analyse and understand patterns, we can predict illness before it happens. The Hearts & Minds and Cerebral Palsy Alliance partnership is the most amazing start to this research project,” said Dr Tracy.
The Hearts & Minds partnership will also enable an innovative research trial into how advanced monitoring of oxygen levels in the brain may assist in protecting vulnerable newborns from brain injury. While there are many causes of cerebral palsy, brain injuries in newborn babies caused by a lack of oxygen are known to be a major contributor.
In Australia, 13 out of 14 cases of cerebral palsy occur in the uterus or before one month of age, meaning babies in NICU are at the greatest risk.
Conducted by a team led by Westmead Hospital’s Dr Pranav Jani, the study will be among the first of its kind and has the potential to prevent cerebral palsy in vulnerable babies, therefore improving learning, development and quality of life.
In partnering with Hearts & Minds, Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation joins some of the most prestigious and impactful research institutes in Australia, including the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Black Dog Institute and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s Green Light Institute.
“Hearts & Minds is an investment company with a difference, in that we provide both investment returns and social returns. We chose to fund CPA based on their track record of improving the outcomes of children born with, or at the risk of, cerebral palsy. We are confident that our research partnership will lead to further improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of vulnerable newborns,” said Paul Rayson, Chief Executive Officer of Hearts & Minds Investments.
Since being established in 2005, Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation has been dedicated to accelerating the treatment and prevention of cerebral palsy, the most common physical disability in childhood.
More than 34,000 Australians have cerebral palsy, and 17 million people worldwide live with the condition. Professor Nadia Badawi AM, Medical Director and Co-Head, Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and CP Alliance Chair of Cerebral Palsy Research, The University of Sydney, said the projects enabled by Hearts & Minds would transform clinical newborn care. “In the last 20 years, the survival rate of babies in our NICU has gone from 80% to over 97%.
This extraordinary progress has been enabled by funding from the community, donors and visionary organisations such as Hearts & Minds. This partnership will help us to continue to deliver the best research in the world and get the best possible outcome for sick children and their families.”
“These two projects will have a profound impact on the standard of care for critically ill newbornbabies, and we thank Hearts & Minds Investments for their commitment to scientific excellence and look forward to a long and worthwhile partnership,” said Professor Badawi.
Both projects will be overseen by a multidisciplinary collaboration between experts from Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute and the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, primarily based at the Children’s Hospital Westmead.