Research Institutes

NICM Health Research Institute

NICM Health Research Institute is Australia’s leader in integrative and complementary medicine research and policy. 

Unrivalled as Australia’s most awarded Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 5 institute in the field of complementary medicine, we are globally recognised for our world-class research and innovations. 

From the bench to the bedside, preclinical, clinical and translational, we advance the evidence-base, focusing on safety, efficacy and how medicine works. 

Our state-of-the-art facilities include TGA certified and ODC licensed laboratories across herbal analysis, pharmacology, and medicinal cannabis. Additionally, we also have GMP manufacturing facilities, clinical trial facilities, and an integrative medicine clinic.

Pioneers in the field since 1989, we are proud to be the largest Australian university to teach and research in the field of integrative and complementary medicine. The Institute was established at Western Sydney University in 2007 with bi-partisan support from the federal and NSW state governments.

Dr Phoebe Zhou, a preclinical pharmacology research fellow is part of an international research team helping to reduce the excessive immune response caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19). The team are developing a novel herbal formula and testing how its ingredients work together (synergistically). The herbal drug focuses primarily on reducing inflammation, as well as reducing the severity of pneumonia symptoms, such as a cough, fever, shortness of breath, and congestion. In addition to overall protecting the lungs and reducing the viral load. 

Dr Mike Armour is a senior research fellow focused on reproductive health, particularly in improving menstrual health and reducing the negative impact of conditions like period pain and endometriosis. An important area of unmet need is to improve menstrual health literacy and teach effective self-care. Dr Armour has helped develop health literacy programs such as Period Talk and Menstruation Matters, which provide young people with evidence-based resources to help understand and manage their period symptoms. Dr Armour has strong collaborations with endometriosis groups internationally and within Australia. He is working on a range of clinical trials to improve non-pharmaceutical management of endometriosis and pelvic pain including Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and medicinal cannabis.

Dementia is the leading cause of disability in older Australians and it affects more than 44 million people worldwide. Dr Genevieve Steiner heads NICM’s Neurocognition Laboratory and her team is discovering new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat people with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. Her team uses neuroimaging and physiological measures such as electroencephalography (EEG) to assess how novel therapies change the brain’s structure and function.

MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development (MARCS)

The MARCS Institute builds on 20 years’ of research into human interaction across the lifespan. The Institute is renowned for outstanding fundamental science and impactful translational research. The Institute collaborates with universities and research partners across the world. More than 120 researchers work in 12 specialist laboratories to better understand brain function and improve wellbeing. The MARCS Institute embraces a suite of disciplines from software, electrical and biomedical engineering through to developmental psychology, language science, cognitive neuroscience and music science. 

BabyLab has facilities in Westmead, Bankstown and Kingswood, conducting research into the development of cognitive, social and emotional
skills especially through speech and language. Researchers use equipment that can record eye movements, heart rate and brain responses using electroencephalography. BabyLab has also developed new tools for assessing language development, tailored to Australia that includes the richness of cultural and linguistic diversity.

The Institute’s Age Lab investigates changes in perception and cognition as people age. Researchers investigate associations between changes in hearing, social cognition and cognitive decline. Projects include examining how older adults recognise faces and voices, age-related changes in visual and auditory attention, and ways to optimise communication in noisy environments. 
Evidence-based interventions to potentially delay changes in cognition with age include learning a new language or a musical instrument.

Our Biomedical Engineering researchers work at the intersection of technology and medicine to improve lives and create the future of healthcare. Working closely with doctors and medical professionals we identify specific clinical needs and then imagine, design, and build transformative solutions to address these problems. Through collaboration with industry, we enable the translation of these solutions to the real-world.

These innovations span monitoring tools, diagnostics, and therapies. We have created smart clothing embedded Morphic Sensors for highly sensitive monitoring of sleep, activity, cardiac and respiratory function. A device called Braincubator preserves living brain tissues in an artificial environment allowing researchers more time to make neuroscience discoveries. Our neuromodulation technology has led to a new type of device, a Feeling Aid which restores sensory perception where it may have been lost due to aging, diabetes, or injury.

Artificial intelligence and robotics are transforming the world. AI is being used increasingly to perform tasks and make decisions that were once only performed by people, such as driving cars, making medical diagnoses, or deciding which stocks to invest in. This raises the question, if a robot or artificial intelligence (AI) gave you advice, would you, and should you, trust that advice? Our research at MARCS investigates how people and machines can interact successfully in teams, harnessing our respective strengths.

The Translational Health Research Institute (THRI)

The Translational Health Research Institute (THRI) is a health and medical research institute with a research node at the Westmead precinct. At part of the Westmead Innovation Quarter, a purpose-built, translational research hub with flexible spaces for health and clinical research will enable researchers from across the University to collaborate with those from other universities, industry, community and government. With a focus on translation and impact, THRI examines disease both acute and chronic through a network of 180 researchers. It also uplifts research across the University, integrating it into policy and practice to have a real impact on people’s lives by improving health outcomes.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Caleb Ferguson has a background as a nurse for patients who’ve had a stroke. In a joint appointment at Western Sydney University and Western Sydney Local Health District, funded by the Heart Foundation, his research is improving care and preventing strokes for people with heart rhythm disorders, and particularly atrial fibrillation.

About one per cent of Australian women have bipolar disorder, but little is known about how menopause exacerbates their mood swings. This has led Dr Tania Perich, in the School of Psychology, to compare the moods of more than 350 women with bipolar who are either of reproductive age, in menopause or post menopause. Her team is conducting qualitative interviews and online global surveys. 

Associate Professor Phoebe Bailey studies the cognitive, social and emotional influences that people over the age of 65 face in their decision making. Associate Professor Bailey has studied how older and younger adults trust each other by bringing them into her lab to play a game where they invest real money together. She’s now using her research as a basis to design and apply tools to prevent financial exploitation of older adults.