CLINICAL trials are due to start within a year on an inhalant form of a hormone that reduces haemorrhage after childbirth and holds the key to saving lives in developing countries.
And the scientists at Melbourne’s Monash University who made the breakthrough on the technology say they have secured additional funding for the project, including from the Planet Wheeler Foundation, also based in Melbourne.
The team, led by Michelle McIntosh, won the overall prize and the health category prize in last year’s The Australian Innovation Challenge for its aerosol form of the hormone oxytocin, which can be inhaled, rather than injected, soon after delivery.
The team took out $ 30,000 in prize money in the awards, which are run by The Australian in association with Shell. The fourth year of The Australian Innovation Challenge launches today.
Women in rich countries routinely get oxytocin injections after childbirth, but their counterparts in poor countries have limited access to the lifesaving hormone.
That is because of a lack of refrigeration essential to preserving the liquid, injectable form of the drug and a lack of needles and syringes and trained medical personnel to give the injections.
Counterfeit drugs penetrating supplies are another problem.
Excessive bleeding soon after childbirth kills tens of thousands of women each year, mostly in developing countries.
The Monash University team has used a process called spray drying to make a dry powder formulation that can be inhaled from a simple, disposable device.
Dr McIntosh said the product could be available in developing countries within a few years if the clinical trials were successful and the technology got through the gruelling regulatory approval process quickly. “Winning the Challenge raised our profile and helped us secure more funding to support the next stage of development,” she said.
She said she hoped the award would inspire pharmacy students to “consider the role they could play in improving healthcare in developing countries”.
The team will use the prize money to host a meeting in London with key players, many of them based in Europe.
The awards, which have a total of $ 65,000 in prize money, have five professional categories, from manufacturing, construction and infrastructure to environment, agriculture and food.
They also have a backyard innovation section open to the public and a young innovators category for students.
Entries close on July 14.