Plans for a new device to help interventional radiologists improve vessel embolisation was one of 40 ’unmet clinical needs’ discussed at a biomedical symposium at NUI Galway today.
Colin Forde, Product Development Engineer and Wayne Allen, Business Development Manager, 2011 BioInnovate Ireland Fellows, plan to commercialise a new medical technology designed to permanently close blood vessels, targeted at an existing surgical procedure termed embolisation. The idea for their technology was developed while observing surgery in St James Hospital and University Hospital Galway; where it was noticed that multiple devices were required to close the vessel, which was time intensive, costly and posed risk. Colin and Wayne plan to commercialise a one-shot device that will immediately occlude any vessel.
Launched last year, BioInnovate Ireland is a specialist training and collaboration programme in medical device innovation. It is modelled on Stanford University’s prestigious Biodesign Programme. These top 40 'unmet clinical needs' have been processed by the first cohort of BioInnovate fellows, who have participated in an intensive clinical immersion in teaching hospitals to help identify potential medical device development opportunities. Throughout a 10-month period, they have availed of the expert advice, direction and guidance from dedicated industrial mentors and serial entrepreneurs, along with national and international clinicians with an interest in enhancing patient care through medical device innovation.
The BioInnovate Ireland Symposium heard a keynote address by Stanford University’s Professor Jack Linehan, a leading expert in the US on innovation and the biomedical sector. In his address Professor Linehan said: “BioInnovate is already serving as an effective connector between universities (faculty and students) and indigenous and global medical device companies in Ireland. Universities are neutral grounds for business, clinical and academic players to meet and share ideas. I fully expect these connections to grow and flourish following in the steps of the successful Stanford Biodesign programme.”
Ireland’s medical technology sector has evolved into one of the leading clusters for medical device and diagnostic products globally. The sector employs more than 25,000 people, which makes the country, per capita, the biggest medical technology employer in European Union. With exports of €7.3 billion in 2011, Ireland is now confirmed among the largest exporters of medical technology products in Europe. 11 of the world's top 13 manufacturing companies manufacturing here, the medical device and diagnostic industry in Ireland is a vibrant growth sector and a cornerstone of the Irish economy.
The sector consists of 250 companies involved in developing, manufacturing and marketing a diverse range of products and services; from disposable plastic and wound care products to precision metal implants including pacemakers to micro-electronic devices, orthopaedic implants, diagnostics, contact lenses and stents. Approximately 50% of these companies are indigenous.
According to Sharon Higgins, Director, IMDA: “Ireland is centrally placed to capitalise on the growing global market for medical technology products and services. We see BioInnovate Ireland as a critical mechanism in continuing to develop and integrate the broad range of strategic competencies and support systems that will enable this island to compete as a mature, high value added economy, with innovation at its core.”
The BioInnovate Ireland Fellowship Programme is delivered by a consortium of four Higher Education Institutions which include NUI Galway, University of Limerick, Dublin City University and University College Cork. This initiative has received funding and support from Enterprise Ireland and several key medical device players including: Medtronic, Creganna-Tactx Medical, Lake Region Medical, Boston Scientific and SteriPack.
Speaking about the programme, the Fellowship Director, NUI Galway’s Dr Mark Bruzzi, said: “BioInnovate Ireland has successfully brought together industry, academic and clinical leaders to support a training environment for innovation in the medical device sector. Through this network and with the support of Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Medical Device Association and BioInnovate industry sponsors, a platform has been established that enables the next generation of medical device leaders to emerge. BioInnovate has captured the imagination of industry, clinicians and academics in believing that through collaboration, Ireland has an immense opportunity to emerge as a global place of choice for medical technology start-ups.”