At Adelaide’s Flinders University, an initiative is fostering collaborations between researchers, industry, end-users and government, to turn biomedical ideas into proven concepts.
The Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP) has taken out the Excellence in Science and Industry Collaboration award at the South Australian Government 2020 SA Science Excellence and Innovation Awards.
The prize recognises the work of inspiring STEMM leaders and teams working in research and education institutions, schools, industry and the community.
The program, led by EA Honorary Fellow Professor Karen Reynolds, was designed to break down some of the challenges associated with research-industry collaboration. It provides an avenue for companies to explore opportunities for innovation at low cost and risk to their company.
“The Medical Device Partnering Program is definitely the most rewarding project I’ve worked on,” Reynolds told create.
“I get to see so many ideas which are so varied — from walking aids through to implantable electronics — and meet so many different people, such as clinicians, inventors, manufacturers and patients.
“The reward is seeing products on the market knowing we made a contribution.”
How it works
The MDPP model involves a three-stage approach: understanding the needs of the end users of technology-based medical products and services early in the development process; a multi-disciplinary creative approach to meet these needs; and finally a structured process that delivers solutions within a short time frame.
One project to help detect cancer safely and more accurately turned a new cancer-detecting probe from PhD research into a commercial reality. The researchers collaborated with the MDPP to increase sensitivity of the device by 470 per cent compared to the previous prototype, and again for extensive preclinical testing of the prototype.
All projects approved through the MDPP receive up to 250 hours of research expertise, which may include prototype development, proof-of-concept work, product validation or evaluation, as well as a 30-hour market intelligence report to assist applicants in preparing their commercialisation strategy.
“In 2020, we also established a PPE [personal protective equipment] test facility here at Flinders in response to the pandemic,” Reynolds added.
“We are working with manufacturers, suppliers, and innovators — all trying to deliver the best PPE to our healthcare workers and to the wider community.”
A life-long passion
Reynolds was born and educated in the United Kingdom, where she stumbled on her future profession as a teenager.
“I read about biomedical engineering in a careers handbook when I was 15, and knew that was what I wanted to do,” she said.
“The blend of medicine, health and technology allowed me to apply my passion for problem solving to healthcare.”
There was no course in biomedical engineering when Reynolds was an undergraduate, so she instead read Physics at Oxford University.
“I stayed at Oxford to do a Masters in Biomedical Engineering, then took a job as a research associate in the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics at John Radcliffe Hospital,” she said.
“After two-and-a-half years, I moved to Leicester University where I did my PhD on artificial heart valves. A couple of years later I moved to Adelaide to take up a lectureship at Flinders.”
Reynolds intends to keep working on the MDPP. Since 2008, some 633 companies and entrepreneurs have approached the program for assistance.