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Right people, right time – Colorectal HTC National Meeting

The 2015 Colorectal Therapies HTC National Meeting in November once again provided valuable opportunities to network and share ideas, attracting over 120 delegates from industry, academia, clinical practice and funding bodies. A number of patients also attended the event, following their participation in a novel healthcare users panel in September.

The theme of the meeting was ‘innovation to market’ and the day began with three keynote speakers giving their personal experience of turning scientific research and technology into successful commercial products.

CEO of DNA Electronics, Steve Allen, who has raised £25million in a recent funding round, spoke about the development of the company, involving both success and failure, with advice about how to avoid pitfalls. Professor of Chemistry at Durham University, Karl Coleman, who founded the AIM-listed Applied Graphene Materials, spoke about the challenges of running a business while retaining a research career, and how the process can lead from euphoria to despair and back again.

Finally, Dr Sabine Hauert spoke from the perspective of a blue skies scientist, who has to ‘sell’ ideas and concepts rather than actual products. As a lecturer in robotics from the University of Bristol, her work focuses on swarm robotics, particularly the use of nanorobotics for drug delivery.

Three technologies receiving support from the HTC were showcased to delegates. Richard Hall of Pd-m International spoke about the development of the hands-free bowel cancer screening technology, which enables identification of blood in stools in the toilet bowl, and his involvement in the project as a product design specialist.

Dr Venkat Subramaniam, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, described his involvement, through the HTC, with US-based medical device company, SpectraScience. Dr Subramaniam has run the only UK site of a multi-national, commercial trial of SpectraScience’s laser technology for diagnosing cancerous polyps during endoscopy, reducing the need for biopsies.

Engineering Lead for the HTC, Dr Peter Culmer has worked with HTC Clinical Director, Professor David Jayne, on a project funded by the NIHR i4i programme that provides surgeons with a stable internal scaffold and integral grips to retract tissue when performing keyhole surgery. He talked about his experience of working on the project as a mechanical engineer.

HTC Programme Manager, Dr Neville Young, said: “One issue was highlighted by all the keynote speakers and the three members of the project teams as being of major importance for successful commercialisation: getting the right people in place at the right time. No one person can do everything; it really is about building an effective team. This is one of the main roles we play at the HTC – bringing people together to help move technologies forward.”

During the afternoon, delegates were able to attend three workshop sessions from a choice of six. These took the form of informal discussions with a range of experts, where delegates could raise issues of interest to them.  Three of the workshops were run by the keynote speakers, with the others run by a product designer and patient, focusing on incorporating user feedback into the design process; an IP lawyer, with expertise in CE marking of products; a health economics expert, with expertise in designing studies to gain robust evidence on cost effectiveness of a technology.

“We’ve had very good feedback on the event from both delegates and exhibitors, both in terms of the format of the day and the opportunities for learning, sharing and networking that the event provided,” said Dr Young. “We’re already thinking about how to build on its success for our national meeting in 2016.”