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Inspiring MedTech innovation

As one of 500 people who travelled for an early start to Central London to attend the Medical Innovations Summit at the Royal School of Medicine on Saturday 18th April, I was rewarded with a day packed with some truly inspiring stories across a huge range of applications.

It is hard to define the bounds of MedTech, in ideas, people and technology; but in this packed programme of invited talks, I got a new sense of just how broad and vibrant a topic it is.

A huge range of medical innovations were presented. All passing the test that “innovation = successful implemention of new ideas”. But the really striking thing for me was to see the passion and determination of innovators whose primary motivation is to see their ideas save and improve lives. One could sense their enthusiasm as they talked about their innovations.

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An inspirational presentation from Prof Geoffrey Raisman summarised a lifetime of work, reporting on recent results from a new surgical procedure that uses nasal cells to bridge a severed spinal cord, to allow nerve cells to regrow and allow a completely paralysed patient the possibility of regaining feeling and learning to walk again. He showed video of the first patient on this long road and the progress that the patient is making in rehabilitation.

But then there was Dr Geraldine Hamilton explaining how her team are creating “organs on a chip” where cell structures, mechanical motion and fluidic elements model the operation of a human organ in a way that will allow testing of new medications on representative models of human organs. There is the prospect of much further innovation here. Even allowing modeling of an individual person’s tissues and testing a specific personalised medication. And perhaps even simulation of full body response to inhaled drug.

Douglas Dunlop and Richard Oreffo discussed the use of 3D printed titanium human hips designed from CT scanning and Computer Aided Design tools to provide customised scaffold, using skeletal stem cells to drive new bone formation.

Dr Rupert Page followed, describing his approach to improve epilepsy management for logging patient data, providing evidence and history to the clinician and integrating this with medical records. This will reduce the care costs (there are 600,000 epilepy sufferers in the UK) and improve quality of life. He expects to add wearables that will assist in detection potential seizure events and allowing real time pre-emptive intervention.

Then we heard from Mark Offerhaus from Micreos on the endolysins that will provide alternatives to antibiotics, a significant step forward in the fight against drug resistant infections; the low cost infant auditory screening for crowded noisy clinical environments of developing countries; the medical dogs that can detect cancer by sniffing urine samples (a recent trial showing 98% success for two dogs on 900 patients). And so it went on, the day passed very quickly, it was hard to take it all in.

What struck me was the passion, creativity and determination of the innovators in identifying and meeting unmet needs encountered in professional or private life. I hope this is contagious!

This is exemplified by the impressive 16 year old Kenneth Shinozuka, who saw his aunt’s pain and difficulty in caring for his grandfather who had dementia and was prone to wandering at night; on a couple of occasions being found wandering on the highway.

Kenneth’s solution was to develop his own wearable technology. He developed a super slim force sensitive sensor that can detect the pressure of a sock heel on the floor and a Bluetooth Low Energy instrumentation module that has a battery life of many months. He combined these with a smartphone application that he wrote, sometimes working through the night to get the technology to work, as he thought of his aunt who had many disturbed nights. He successfully tested it out with his granddad. He is now starting a business Safe Wander to commercialise his system to meet the demand of others who want to use his solution. Very inspiring.

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