Victoria Fellow Dr Thushara Perera Receives Prestigious Award

29 November

Dr Thushara Perera, a Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute who received a Victoria Fellowship in 2016 to visit Europe to further his research into Parkinsons Disease, became the recipient of an AMP Foundation's Tomorrow Fund on 28 November 2019. This is a highly prestigious award granted to only the very best of Australia’s young scientists, social innovators and educators. In 2019, only 37 individuals received grants from a pool of 1,633 applicants.

Dr Perera’s award is in recognition of his work developing a novel rigidity device (known as the BiRD) designed to monitor the four main symptoms that define Parkinson’s disease: hand tremor, slowness, muscle rigidity (stiffness), and poor balance. Currently, the accuracy of diagnosing Parkinson’s disease is limited by differences in referral habits by general practitioners, restricted availability of specialist neurologists, and inadequate access to health services in remote regions.

The device developed by Dr Perera is worn on the patient’s hand and each assessment takes less than two minutes to complete. An early-stage clinical study has been completed in eight people with Parkinson’s disease, the results of which showed that the device could distinguish between people with and without disease as well as track effects of therapy. Although initial results show promise, a larger clinical trial across a greater number of patients is required to determine the utility of the device.

The AMP Tomorrow Fund grant will support the establishment of this clinical study, with the aim of increasing diagnostic accuracy and reducing the uncertainty and apprehension felt by patients. It will also enable appropriate treatments to be given earlier in the disease, before symptoms become unmanageable. “It can take up to two years to diagnose Parkinson’s disease in the clinic. With this technology, I hope to do it in a matter of minutes.” Dr Thushara Perera.

Courtesy of the Bionics Institute.

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