the way we treat
neurological conditions

For Natalie Kallelea, every day was a struggle. Suffering from severe epilepsy, Natalie spent many years incapacitated by multiple daily seizures. But, thanks to a world-first procedure led by Director of Neurology at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Professor Mark Cook, Natalie now has a chance at a normal life.

Professor Cook and his team implanted a pump in Natalie’s stomach that sends medication through a tiny tube directly into the brain. It is the first time that medication has been delivered in this way. While the procedure itself is very well established, it is a new example of using existing technology for novel solutions – something for which Professor Cook is becoming renowned.

“We usually employ catheters to drain rather than inject,” Professor Cook says.”What’s new about this is that we are delivering a drug directly to the brain, which has never been done before.” This procedure marks the culmination of five years of work between Professor Cook and Medtronic, a medical device company based in Seattle. The two partners have developed a remarkable relationship, continuously looking for solutions that match Medtronic’s technology with clinical objectives.

So far, three patients have undergone the procedure. Although it is early days, preliminary results are encouraging and demonstrating that the new drug delivery system can control epileptic seizures.

“The procedure has had a dramatic effect on Natalie. It’s surprising how effective it has been,” Professor Cook says. “The side effects are manageable and we are all ecstatic with how things have gone.”

Professor Cook believes that St Vincent’s provides unique advantages for international companies looking to collaborate on clinical trials. “We are lucky to have excellent clinical processes in the hospital, highly capable staff and first-class infrastructure. We see people who have very difficult epilepsy. There are few other options for them and they are very enthusiastic about being involved with these new clinical trials.