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In late 2017, Dr Matthew Oldakowski was sponsored by Accelerating Australia and St John of God Healthcare to attend the Global Faculty in Training course at Stanford Biodesign. Matt and his team at Stanford were awarded the Robert Howard Next Step Award for their device, EarBuddy.

Matt Oldakowski is a bioengineering postdoc at Curtin University and medtech entrepreneur who recently joined the team at Accelerating Australia as co-course director of the 2018 Perth Biodesign course along with his colleague Intan Oldakowska.

Since June, Matt has been guiding the 25 Perth Biodesign course participants on their journey to solve medical unmet needs. Prior to his return to Perth, however, he was busy undertaking the Biodesign Global Faculty in Training (GFIT) at Stanford University, a five-month program designed to instruct experienced medtech innovators on the biodesign innovation process and how to teach it so that they may launch similar programs around the world. Matt was the 12th fellow to be selected to attend this prestigious program, since its inception in 2014 and the 3rd fellow outside of the program development partnership with Japan. In addition Matt was an Endeavour Executive Fellow with a mission to connect Australia’s fledgling medtech ecosystem to the global hub of medtech innovation in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Robert Howard Next Step award was created in 2012 by LUNAR Design (part of McKinsey Design) in conjunction with Stanford Biodesign. Winning the award means that teams gain access to around 200 consulting hours from LUNAR, ranging from user-centred research, product design to development engineering. Winners are selected based on having a great concept to address an important unmet clinical need – this year it was EarBuddy!

The EarBuddy team also comprises Dr Jozef Bartunek, fellow GFIT alumni as well as Dr Peter Santa Maria and Dr Douglas Sidell, ENT surgeons at Stanford Hospital and Dr Cuneyt Alper, a world leading Otitis Media researcher and clinician from University of Pittsburgh.

EarBuddy is a device that helps ventilate children’s middle ears as they swallow, treating a condition called Otitis Media with Effusion (OME), or “glue ear” and reducing the need for invasive surgery to place ear tubes.

Of their award, Matt says, “The EarBuddy concept is a great example of the Biodesign process at work identifying a large and real unmet clinical need with a technically feasible solution and a potential pathway to market. We were very lucky to be selected given the outstanding quality of the other teams. We look forward to working with the fantastic team at LUNAR Design to take our concept to the next level!”


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