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Joint Initiative of the Convergence Science Network and the Graeme Clark Institute presents

2019 Graeme Clark Oration - Professor Timothy Denison

  • Mon 22nd Jul 2019, 6:15 PM - 7:30 PM
  • 1 Convention Centre Pl, South Wharf VIC 3006
  • Book Tickets

Towards an Electronic Prescription?

The opportunities and challenges for interfacing electrical and biological circuits for the treatment of disease.

When treating diseases of the nervous system, doctors have generally relied on drug discoveries. But uncovering new pharmaceutical treatments can be a risky and lengthy process, and diseases of the central nervous system have proven especially challenging. With the significant personal and societal costs incurred by these disorders, there is an imperative to explore alternative approaches to treatment.

Bioelectronics is the concept of interfacing directly with the body's own nervous system to monitor physiological signals and, as needed, modulate the electrical activity within the nervous system to alleviate symptoms of diseases. The first generation of bioelectronic systems are now treating a number of disorders, with perhaps the most familiar being cardiac pacemakers that aim to maintain a healthy heart rhythm. Pacing systems are deployed in hundreds of thousands of patients today, and reinforce the potential for bioelectronic medicine to restore health.

Expanding bioelectronics to neurological disorders like epilepsy, chronic pain and dementia is an exciting but challenging opportunity. Despite the clinical success in treating symptoms of diseases like Parkinson's, existing bioelectronic systems have several attributes that currently limit their adoption. For example, currently a skilled neurosurgeon is required to place the implant, and the device's output is relatively inflexible in contrast to the rapidly changing and reactive activity of the nervous system. Resolving these issues requires the complementary pursuit of technological innovation and scientific discovery.

For technology, the microelectronics-enabled flexibility of bioelectronic systems creates opportunities for both research and medical device design. Digital technology is adaptable for addressing various diseases, as well as for fine-tuning to patient-specific needs. In the future, sensor- and algorithm-enabled systems might rapidly respond to physiological fluctuations within the body, allowing the possibility of building restorative prosthetics that serve as a surrogate nervous system. In addition, the algorithms used to operate the bioelectronics can “evolve” with our scientific understanding of the nervous system. But to fully realize this potential, we first need a better understanding of how the nervous system functions and responds to therapeutic interventions.

To this end, bioelectronic platforms are also being used as a unique window into the brain. This window allows access for gathering data on how the nervous system functions, and then goes awry due to disease. Clinician-researchers can then characterize the response of the nervous system to drugs and stimulation to better understand how more “neurotypical” function might be restored.

The flexibility of bioelectronics allows for a breadth of therapies to be explored with these scientific toolkits. High-impact, problematic clinical needs are currently being explored in human volunteers, including postural instability in Parkinson's disease, seizure prediction and prevention in epilepsy, and emotional and sensory processing in chronic pain and depression. The breadth of these studies reflects the diversity of challenges created by neurological disorders, but also the hope that bioelectronic systems can help address them.

You can hear Professor Denison discuss his oration in this video by clicking here

Professor Timothy Denison

Timothy Denison, PhD
Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies

Department of Engineering Science

Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience

Medical Research Council Brain Network Dynamics Unit

Oxford University 

Professor Denison holds a join appointment in Engineering Science and Clinical Neurosciences at Oxford, where he explores the fundamentals of physiologic closed-loop systems in collaboration with the Medical Research Council Brain Network Dynamics Unit.

Prior to that, Tim was a Technical Fellow at Medtronic PLC and Vice President of Research & Core Technology for the Restorative Therapies Group, where he helped oversee the design of next generation neural interface and algorithm technologies for the treatment of chronic neurological disease. In 2012, he was awarded membership to the Bakken Society, Medtronic’s highest technical and scientific honor, and in 2014 he was awarded the Wallin leadership award, becoming only the second person in Medtronic history to receive both awards. In 2015, he was elected to the College of Fellows for the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). Tim received an A.B. in Physics from The University of Chicago, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from MIT. He recently completed his MBA and was named a Wallman Scholar at The University of Chicago.

The 2019 Graeme Clark Oration will be video recorded and available for viewing on the Internet. Photos will also be taken and used on web publications and in print publications or in promotional activities. If you do not wish to be filmed or photographed, please tell our staff members on the day.


Monday, 22 July 2018
6.15 pm – 7.30 pm


Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

1 Convention Centre Place

South Wharf, Melbourne


The Graeme Clark Oration is a free event but seats are limited, so please register early.

Our commitment to Ozharvest

The Graeme Clark Oration is a free event to attend. At the 2019 Oration, attendees will be invited to make a gold coin donation to a charity supported by the event organiser, the Convergence Science Network.

For several years, the Network has raised funds for OzHarvest, Australia’s leading food rescue charity, collecting quality excess food from commercial outlets and delivering it directly to more than 1300 charities supporting people in need across the country.

OzHarvest now operates nationally, rescuing over 180 tonnes of food each week from over 3,500 food donors including supermarkets, hotels, airports, wholesalers, farmers, corporate events, catering companies, shopping centres, delis, cafes, restaurants, film and TV shoots and boardrooms. Each dollar raised provides two meals for those in need in our community.

We ask you consider supporting this cause with a gold coin donation when you attend the Graeme Clark Oration. The sum raised will be announced the following day via the Convergence Science Network Twitter account, @Conversci. Thank you.