Published: August 31, 2015

TELEMEDICINE, wearable devices and the use of digital medical data are three key areas of future research and development for which Adelaide offers unique advantages, a global health executive says.

The head of Health Industries in South Australia Marco Baccanti says South Australia’s geography makes it an ideal place to forge new links between technology and medicine.

Mr Baccanti, an Italian national, said it was an opportunity for Adelaide because the well-resourced capital city was surrounded by a low-density state four times the size of the United Kingdom.

Development in this area would have global impact, Mr Baccanti said, as the focus on preventing and treating lifestyle related diseases skyrockets.

“The combination of non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes, stroke and Alzheimers) and demography is a big threat for global health systems because of the related chronicity, the need for long-term care and the related costs, which are not sustainable,” he said.

“We need to develop solutions available to the patient where they are at home, changing the point of care.”

Researchers globally are looking for solutions to these problems. Prior to his arrival in Adelaide, Mr Baccanti held key positions at biotechnology hubs in Italy and Dubai. He has worked with researchers worldwide who have emphasized the importance of non-communicable disease healthcare strategies.

Industry commentary suggests that rather than reactive, resource-heavy healthcare the future will involve greater support systems for low-level care at home.

Mr Baccanti said South Australia’s growing focus around medical research and relative isolation made it the perfect case study to lead this approach.

“As a capital city with high tech hospitals and research centres surrounded by such a huge territory with just 300,000 people, Adelaide is an ideal laboratory,” he said.

“Companies could develop and test modern technologies aimed to fill the gap between primary and secondary care that will help the citizen to enjoy the health care they need without the need to move into a hospital.”

Mr Baccanti was recruited in late 2014 to lead growth in the field of health science research and commercialization.

Health Industries in South Australia is a complimentary project to the newly established South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and the adjoining development of health science departments of two major universities.

Mr Baccanti said one of the greatest assets Adelaide could offer researchers and biomedical companies were the streamlined regulatory framework for medical trials and the short “power chain” between industry and government.

“For example, a life sciences company that is coming from a highly regulated environment, if they approach South Australia to develop an industrial activity, they will find something very important for them: the leadership of the government very aligned and approachable,” he said.

“If you are going to invest in South Australia, it’s quite likely you could meet the Premier or the Minster.

“The leadership is accessible, has vision and commitment to this type of development.”

In the first months of his tenure, Mr Baccanti has identified various development opportunities and points of attraction for researchers.

He said this particular idea sprung from the Royal Flying Doctors service, which he found fascinating and an extreme example of problems facing healthcare systems globally.

“I think that in those extreme conditions where you actually need to fly to assist a patient, a lot can be improved with the new wave of technologies.”

Although Adelaide is somewhat remote it is the only Australian city from which people can fly east or west return in one day. For countries in the northern hemisphere there is also the appeal of Australia, and Adelaide particularly, having close ties with Asia.

“We see an opportunity for companies that want to establish a larger industry and develop sales in Asia Pacific to be based in Adelaide,” he said.

“Being very close to Europe, America and others in terms of culture, there is a comfort zone about business practice that is very important.”