Old Billingsgate, London, Monday 6 June
The Medical Futures Innovation Awards, Europe’s leading showcase of early-stage healthcare innovation, this year recognised new ideas such as a 3D imaging system to assess lung function, a dental syringe that uses chemistry to make injections less painful, and a Wii-style rehabilitation therapy for stroke patients.
More than 1500 people from medicine, business and politics attended the daytime innovation showcase and the evening awards ceremony.
In the daytime event, hosted by BBC Executive Producer Dr Michael Mosley, 40 innovative products were demonstrated. Each inventor was interviewed by Dr Moseley, explaining their technology’s potential or proven achievement.
The evening event was hosted by comedian Rory Bremner and Dynasty actress Emma Samms. The guests included broadcasters such as Sir Trevor McDonald, senior NHS figures such as Sir Bruce Keogh and clinical pioneers such as laryngeal transplant surgeon Prof. Martin Birchall.
The Medical Futures Awards, which started in 2001, are a non-profit initiative to assist early-stage innovations that can provide realistic solutions to improve clinical outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. Medical Futures works with industry, government organisations, angel investors, medical associations and research bodies to run the Awards and ensure their real-world impact.
The Awards judging process is a transparent peer review in which three criteria are applied: novelty, viability (both clinical and commercial) and potential benefit to patient care.
Clinicians, scientists and entrepreneurs are invited to pitch their ideas to expert judging panels. This year, the 100 shortlisted teams pitched to judges including Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of the NHS, and Professor Martin Rothman, VP of Medical Affairs for Medtronic.
Changing patients’ lives
Past winners of the Medical Futures Innovation awards joined this year’s winning teams in a daytime showcase of groundbreaking solutions that demonstrated the potential of the life science industry to transform patient experience.
• 2003 winner Diagnostics for the Real World has made progress towards meeting the need for reliable low-cost point of care tests for HIV and other infections that can be used in the developing world, where medical facilities are limited.
• Stanmore Implants has followed its 2002 award by continuing to develop and commercialise high-tech prostheses such as the iTAP, a prosthetic arm that can be implanted directly into the bone.
• Dr Vince Forte, a 2001 winner, has seen his Peezy device – a disposable funnel for urine collection in female patients – gain a place on the NHS drug tariff.
• The TightRope suture-button device developed by 2003 winner Brian Thornes and now available from Arthrex Inc, has been used to heal ankle fractures in 60,000 patients worldwide.
Solutions for the future
The Medical Futures Innovation Awards 2011 were divided into three categories:
1. Cardiovascular Innovation
The overall winner and winner of Best Innovative Concept was the Temporary Cardiac Assist, developed by a team from Papworth Hospital NHS Trust: a modification to the heart-lung machine that listens to the patient’s heart and ensures it is supplied with oxygenated blood.
The Best Innovation in Service Redesign award went to a team from Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Worcestershire Royal Hospital and Memorial Hospital Darlington for Basics, a new type of resuscitation trolley that allows the newborn baby to be resuscitated at the mother’s bedside.
The winner of Best Innovation to Improve Patient Care in this category, as well as Overall Best NHS Innovation, was Limbs Alive. This technology – developed by teams from Royal Victoria Infirmary and Newcastle University – uses Wii-style circus skills games to help rehabilitate paralysed stroke patients.
The Best Innovation in Diagnostics award went to teams from University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and the University of Leicester for Lifemap: a non-invasive test that identifies abnormal cardiac areas to predict the risk of sudden heart attacks.
A research team from Queen’s University, Belfast received a Commendation for its discovery of angiogenesis-regulating peptides: a protein in frog skin that has the potential to allow long-term control of cancer.
2. Dental and Oral Health Innovation
The overall winner and winner of Best Blue Sky Idea was the Smart Dental Injection System, developed by teams from the University of Newcastle: a double-barrelled syringe cartridge designed to reduce the pain of injection by adding a buffer solution to the anaesthetic.
The Best Educational Innovation award went to teams from Kings College London for Haptel, a virtual reality dental school.
The Best Translational Research Innovation award was won by teams from Kings College London and St George’s Hospital, University of London, for Preventing Cavities the Smart Way: a topical gel that targets the bacterial cause of dental caries.
Identifi, a digital camera system that takes images of patient’s teeth and sends them to a wireless tablet device accessible to the patient and dentist, won the Best Innovation in Patient Engagement award. It was developed by teams from Inspektor Research Systems and the University of Liverpool.
Researchers from the University of London won a Commendation for their Blue Sky Idea of synthetic peptides: two synthetic proteins used to regenerate bone, blood vessels and nerves by stimulating the patient’s stem cells.
3. Respiratory Innovation
The overall winner and Best Blue Sky Idea winner was the Nox therapy, developed by teams from Edixomed Ltd and Queen Mary University of London, which protects patients against ventilator-associated pneumonia by restoring the body’s natural levels of nitric oxide.
The Best Translational Research award went to a team from the University of Sheffield for its Polaris MRI system, which uses inhaled inert gases to produce high-resolution lung images without the need for radiation.
The Best Therapeutic Innovation in this category, and the Best Translational Research Innovation overall, was the Cystic Fybrosis Gene Therapy developed by researchers from Imperial College, London and the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, which delivers a normal version of the faulty cystic fibrosis gene into the lungs of sufferers via a virus.
The PneumaScan device from PneumaCare Ltd and a medical team from Addenbrookes Hospital won the Best Business Proposition award. This non-invasive product allows clinicians to assess lung function using 3D imaging technology similar to that used in entertainments.
Researchers from the University of Houston, Texas received a Commendation for Inverseon, a therapy that uses beta-blockers to treat COPD.
A life in innovation
The Lifetime Achievement Award 2011 was presented to Prof. Rodney Perkins of Stanford University School of Medicine, one of the world’s greatest medical device entrepreneurs. Rodney Perkins is the creator of such breakthrough technologies as the injectable collagens used in facial reconstruction, the world’s smallest hearing aid, laser surgery and the non-surgical hysterectomy.
The long game
The founder of Medical Futures, consultant surgeon Dr Andy Goldberg OBE, said: “Since we started 10 years ago, a Medical Futures Innovation Award has become one of the most sought after healthcare and business accolades, and past winners have gone on to raise more than £100 million of investment.”
However, he added, the road to investment needs to be simpler: “Most of the successful innovations have taken 10 to 20 years before they benefit patients, and some great British inventions such as the MRI scanner and the laryngeal mask airway have leaked from the UK and are now owned and marketed by American and Japanese companies.
“If we can connect the best healthcare ideas to the right people and money and keep the resulting companies in the UK, we can bring significant benefits to UK Plc, demonstrate the UK as a first-class place for ideas and, most importantly, improve the NHS and the lives of the patients it treats.”
Nox therapy development team