There is a growing realisation that the medical device technologies of the future will be increasingly dependent on the convergence of engineering, science and medicine. For example in 2006 the UK Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the pre-eminent national body tasked with ensuring a cohesive approach to research and technology development in the UK, identified Bioscience & Healthcare as one of its six key areas. Within that the TSB has accorded medical devices priority status, especially:
• Converging technologies – convergence of the physical with the biological leading to new and combined functionalities.
• Diagnosis and screening technologies together with the development and monitoring
of more targeted therapies.
• Regenerative medicine – methods to induce the body to regenerate healthy functional tissue and to provide replacement parts.
• Assistive technologies – devices and technologies that aid rehabilitation and support
for independent life in the community.
The Strathclyde Institute of Medical Devices (SIMD) was launched in October 2006 in response to the recognition that effective innovation in medicine and healthcare technology is required to address the world’s healthcare problems in the 21st Century. The convergence of engineering, science and medicine is key and SIMD is ideally placed to pioneer the complex, team approaches that will be needed to deliver new research and products to the healthcare end users.
The Institute draws upon interdisciplinary teams and technologies developed within the UK’s first Medical Devices Doctoral Training Centre (DTC), at the University of Strathclyde http://www.strath.ac.uk/simd/dtc/. The DTC, first funded in 2003, was re-funded in 2008 for a further 5 years by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Life Sciences Interface Programme, works in partnership with the TSB-funded Health Technologies KTN http://healthtech.globalwatchonline.com/epicentric_portal/site/healthtech/?mode=0 and is supported by a core group of departments across the University’s Faculties of Science and Engineering e.g.
• Drug delivery
• Cardiovascular Devices
• Tissue Engineering
• Medical Diagnostics
• Medical Ultrasound
• Medicinal Chemistry
• Finite element modelling/ fluidics
• Signal Processing
• Wireless telemetry
• Applied Mathematics
Currently there are ca. 40 DTC interdisciplinary projects. The current projects span a very broad range of medical device applications – covering diagnostics, rehabilitation engineering, drug delivery, cell & tissue engineering and pioneering “brain computer interface” work e.g. neuroprosthetics. Each project has an academic supervisor drawn from at least two different disciplines/research groups. In addition each project has either a clinical advisor or an industry advisor in order to ensure that the project is rooted in clinical/industrial need. A full listing of current DTC projects can be found on the Institute’s webpages, http://www.strath.ac.uk/simd/.
The Institute is the commercialisation vehicle not only for DTC Eng.D medical device projects but also for Ph.D, M.Sc. and M.Res. projects and indeed is a medical device commercialisation resource for the whole of the University. Some current examples of SIMD multidisciplinary projects which are leading to new and exciting technologies and products are given below:
1) A team has developed a novel, patented and clinically trialled, technology which allows the moisture level of a wound to be measured using a non-invasive wound dressing monitor. Further information on this technology, for which we are seeking investment, can be found at http://www.strath.ac.uk/press/newsreleases/2007archive/headline_80990_en.html
2) Another early stage medical device technology, this time drawing upon expertise from the University’s medical diagnostics and pharmaceutical science communities, relates to non-invasive extraction and analysis of blood-circulating molecules. This device, detects blood glucose, and potentially many other molecules, as effectively as current “finger-stick” based methods used in the control of type 1diabetes, but with much greater convenience and usability. This project has now received Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept funding to help develop a commercial system - http://www.scottish-enterprise.com/sedotcom_home/start-your-business/turn-research-into-business/poc/proofofconcept-projects/se2008-poc-project-details.htm?ID=232029
3) Other examples of successful multidisciplinary projects leading to commercially exploitable technology include cardiac stent devices. A novel drug-eluting stent technology has been developed and is available for licensing - http://www.pharmalinks.org.uk/. A related early stage project is on-going in the development of an “intelligent” stent i.e. a stent that incorporates a sensor, which will be capable of continuously monitoring in-stent restenosis, and transmitting this data to a device outside the body.
Drawing on the same multidisciplinary scientific base/experience of more than 60 academics, across more than a dozen academic departments, SIMD has facilitated the formation of multidisciplinary medical device teams for industry funded projects in the same way that the DTC does for EPSRC funded projects. The Institute maintains a network of more than 30 research active clinicians, across a range specialities, who are interested in participating in such projects. The Institute has very recently cemented its relationship with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHSGG&C) by forming the Glasgow Health Technology Cooperative (GHTC), http://www.strath.ac.uk/simd/ghtc/, which is a new vehicle for collaborative research.
The GHTC recognises that the Institute is the preferred partner for NHSGG&C in the development of medical device technology and products. The GHTC provides a framework and action group for the generation of joint projects in medical devices and related technologies. It also provides a response from the University of Strathclyde and NHSGG&C to the UK Health Industry Task Force's call for (i) "better technology pull" from the NHS and (ii) for greater NHS - academe collaboration to improve healthcare. GHTC will provide a 'technology pull' vehicle enabling manufacturers, clinicians and academics to find better ways and opportunities to work together to improve delivery of medical devices and technology into the community.
The Institute is staffed by specialists who understand the needs of the medical device industry, the NHS and other clinical organisations. In addition to technology commercialisation the Institute offers research brokering, spin-in/spin-out information and support/advice for clinicians and clinical staff with research needs. Enquiries, including information on the Institute’s current pre-commercial project portfolio, should be directed as follows:
Device Research/Commercialisation: For Medical Industry and other industrial enquiries please contact Alan Lindsay, Industrial Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: +44 (0) 141 548 4110
Clinical Coordinator: For NHS and other clinical enquiries please contact Ms. Rachael Halifax, email@example.com