VALE - Dr John Grant-Thomson AM

The humble man who invented a lifesaving medical transport device for critically ill babies, the Neocot, will long be remembered as someone dedicated to making the world a better place!

Sadly however, Professor Emeritus John Grant-Thomson AM, affectionately called Dr John by his closest associates (formerly a Universtiy of Southern Queensland Professor) died on September 13 - 2021, aged 82, after a battle with cancer.

University of Southern Queensland Vice Chancellor, Professor Geraldine Mackenzie said that “Professor John Grant-Thomson was a giant of biomedical and electrical engineering, whose major achievement in his otherwise distinguished career was the invention of the Neocot”. For his contribution he was awarded the Order of Australia.

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The Neocot is a self-contained, intensive care system to transport critically ill and premature infants from their birthplace to a major hospital for specialist treatment.

First used in 2002, Neocot is now used to transport approximately 4000 critically ill and premature infants every year, across all Australian states and territories. The Neocot is also used internationally in Norway and Swedan.

Professor Mackenzie also said “Professor Grant-Thomsons' academic contribution to biomedical engineering was undeniable, but it was his dedication to making the world a better place that was truly inspiring”.

“John Grant-Thomson sought and found the true meaning of invention’’ Professor Mackenzie said.

“Even after his retirement from the University of Southern Queensland in 2003 as honorary professor, Dr John remained passionate about teaching the next generation and mentoring students to help them reach their potential. Our thoughts are all with his family and many friends and work colleagues, and we hope they find great comfort in reflecting on the countless lives he impacted for the better”.

Professor John Grant-Thomson joined the USQ in 1970 earning a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical), a Master of Science (Biomedical Engineering) was later earned at Glasgow and a Doctor of Philosophy (Electrical Engineering) was from the University of Queensland. He was appointed chair and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the USQ in 1996.

“The Neocot was initially designed while he (John) was working with engineering students at the USQ in 2000”, Professor Mackenzie said. “This development flowed from another of his inventions – The MIRF (Mobile Intensive Care Facility) developed for the Australian military. In the 1960’s Professor Grant-Thomson was also a part of the NASA team that established the Toowoomba Cooby Creek Tracking Station to research experimental satellite communication systems” and it was a critical link in the later moon landings.

Dr John, was first contacted by Dr David Cartwright from the Royal Brisbane Hospital and Dr David Tudehope from the Mater Hospital, to pioneer the development of a standardised and easily transported system that could be used in road and air emergency transport modalities.

Dr John then engaged some of his leading engineering students to work with him to develop such a solution and so the development began to its eventual fruition in 2000.

Dr John often commented that few people actually knew that such a world changing piece of medical equipment, was manufactured in Toowoomba, Queensland.

He reflected that  “Building such a device required special skills, funding and a place to work and that’s where another Toowoomba businessman came in. Mr Neil Mansell of Neil Mansell Transport stepped up and housed and funded the commercialisation of what then became the Mansell Neocot”.

Later the Neocot was to be manufactured at another Toowoomba business' advanced composites manufacturing precinct - Mr Tim Wheelers, BAC Technologies (formerly Buchanan Advanced Composites).

Tim said “We will long observe the ripple effect of Dr Johns work and vision, as it is carried forward into the future by the current and future Neocot teams. It’s right here at BAC that ex USQ graduate electrical engineers, (Mr Anthony Vadalma and Mr Paul Priebbenow) along with the mechanical engineering team at BAC had been innovating under Dr Johns watchful eye”.

Tim also said, “Anthony and Pauls enthusiasm stimulated Dr John with their exciting innovations including a world first, a 'photo therapy' solution for the babies to receive a jump start to their jaundice treatment, during their transport to a tertiary hospital.

Mr Anthony Vadalma summed it up when he said after Dr Johns' Passing, "Dr John was an inspirational man and an amazing mentor. Each day I worked with Dr John I was always amazed at how he thinks and his ability to solve problems. I am blessed to have been able to work beside him for many years and to learn so much from him. He was a true mentor, colleague and friend".

Today the Neocot is transported in aircraft from organisations such as LifeFlight and the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a recent Australian Story carried a reunion of one of the very first Neocot infants, with Dr John. Just how many lives have been impacted, and to what degree Dr Johns’ life has impacted our world, will only be revealed by time itself.

Gallery of Honour

NeoRESQ vehicle launch - 2020

NeoRESQ vehicle launch - 2020

NeoRESQ vehicle launch - 2020

NeoRESQ vehicle launch - 2020

Darwin Hospital System Launch

Darwin Hospital System Launch - 2018

Darwin Hospital System Launch

Darwin Hospital System Launch - 2018

Export Awards 2017

Export Awards 2017

Sweden System Pre Delivery - 2015

Sweden System Pre Delivery - 2015

Media Meet and Greet - Early Days

Media Meet and Greet - Early Days

Original Prototype

Original Prototype

Original Prototype

Original Prototype

MIRF in action

MIRF in action

MIRF in action

MIRF in action

Germany 2017 - Here's to the future of Neocot

Germany 2017 - Here's to the future of Neocot