“Many great innovations are probably being lost because people do not know how to navigate the development and commercialisation process. The SIGHT programme helps to bridge that gap and provides suitable access and resources to help innovators gain ground and traction with their solutions.”

Case Studies

Welldoing

Welldoing.org

About Welldoing

Welldoing is a company which focuses on matching up therapists to patients, based on the issues or reasons that the patient is seeking therapy.

With the majority of services available, such as tradespersons, dentists, dog walkers etc, people will frequently ask their network for recommendations. However, people are far less likely to ask friends or family for recommendations for therapists, they may not even be aware of who in their network is going through therapy. A recommendation may not always be suitable anyway, as they may specialise in a completely different area.

Searching online is not a great solution either. Normally, when looking for therapists, individuals are not in a great place personally. The stress of endless internet searching is more likely to cause anxiety and stress.

The Welldoing website contains an algorithm which matches clients to the best therapist for their needs. This can also include factors e.g. whether you would prefer a face to face, telephone or virtual meeting. The site provides a comprehensive list of therapists, who are subscribed to the platform, and their profiles. Clients can then contact therapists on the site, make appointments and make payments.

The website also contains a vast collection of relevant content, providing advice and resources. This information has all been written by therapists or patients, so is valuable to a broad range of people.

Opportunities and Challenges

COVID has opened up new opportunities for the therapy community. Although virtual therapy sessions have been available for a few years, since March 2020 this has become the primary delivery mechanism for therapy. Some clients have reported that they actually prefer this method, as they feel more comfortable in their own home, on their own territory, which has disinhibited them. However, it has caused issues for those clients whose home environment does not allow for a great deal of privacy. However, in these cases, other delivery methods have presented themselves, such as conducting the session on their mobile phone whilst walking for their one hour outdoors exercise.

The increase of therapy available, in a virtual format, has removed previous barriers based on location. A client in London may have found they were best matched to a therapist in Manchester. This would not have been feasible for face-to-face meetings but, by using online technology, has barrier has now been removed.

However, COVID has also raised a number of issues for the general public. The number of people experiencing anxiety, stress, relationship issues etc, has multiplied significantly. Welldoing have also experienced an increased number of parents seeking assistance for their children, as a result of lockdown, school closures and changes to their environment.

The Partnership between Welldoing and SIGHT

Welldoing joined the SIGHT Programme in the Spring of 2020. They saw the programme as a great opportunity to raise their company profile and to work with other companies who have similar goals and challenges. Opportunities such as introductions to relevant clinicians and affiliate companies were appealing, in addition to the grants available through the programme.

Results from SIGHT Membership

Welldoing applied for and won a SIGHT grant during the summer of 2020. The plan for these funds was to instigate a technical development programme and to implement a digital marketing strategy, including Google and Facebook ads.

To date, Welldoing has grown their platform to:
– 11,000 therapists
– 25,000 individuals who have been matched to therapists
– 56,000 visitors to their website per month

As well as the benefits of the grant, Welldoing are also very excited by some of the introductions which have been facilitated by the SIGHT Programme, including Portsmouth University Hospital NHS Trust and Portsmouth Technology Trials Unit.

Future Plans

Welldoing has a number of exciting plans for the future. One of their primary objectives is to add coaching to the website. 7% of the therapists currently on the platform are also coaches. Welldoing plan to have a broad range of specialities including executive, business, health, fitness and life coaches.

They would also like to use this opportunity to work closer with organisations such as the NHS. For example, a health and lifestyle coach could assist someone, who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, to settle into a new, healthier regime to improve their overall health and learn to live with their new condition.

They are also beginning to develop a corporate offering for companies who wish to offer support in the form of therapy for employees or the best coach for their executives. Welldoing will work with those individuals to ensure they are matched to a suitable therapist or coach, so that the client receives the maximum benefits from their sessions.

GenomeKey

About GenomeKey 

GenomeKey is a UK-based SME established in 2019. Their primary focus is to develop an IVD diagnostic device that will allow for the clinical diagnosis of bacterial sepsis in a significantly reduced turnaround time.

Currently, one fifth of the world’s deaths are due to sepsis and it kills more people per year than cancer. This is a huge medical problem in the UK and estimated associated costs to the NHS are around £2billion per year.

The current process for identifying sepsis is for a clinician to draw 10ml of blood from the patient. The sample is sent to the microbiology laboratory, where it is cultured to grow the bacterial, in order to identify which antibiotics may work for that patient. This process takes an average of three days. During this time period approximately one third of sepsis deaths will have already occurred. Long term, the other concern is that due to historical dependence on antibiotics, there is strong resistance with no new antibiotics being developed. 

GenomeKey want to circumvent the current three-day process of culturing a sample and, instead, developed a way of conducting a DNA sequence of the pathogen from the blood sample – this is likely to take just 4 hours. The results will tell the clinician everything they need to know: what it is, how fast it will grow, toxicity and which antibiotics are most likely to work. Potentially, this could save the NHS in the region of £2500 for every sepsis patient treated, as well as preserving antibiotics for the future by preventing over use or misuse. 

To date, GenomeKey have proved the concept of their solution in that the tools developed will be superior to the current technology. They began by looking at staphylococcus aureus to accurately predict whether that particular strain would be methicillin resistant, succeeding with a 99.8% sensitivity and specificity. They are at an early R&D stage and recently have won a substantial grant to fund the development of the technology.

Opportunities and Challenges

Fortunately, GenomeKey has not encountered too many challenges during the COVID global pandemic. However, the situation has meant that their access to hospitals and clinicians for insight and feedback has been limited.

GenomeKey have used the lockdown as an opportunity to establish the company as completely remote. Adapting to the new way of working means that founding members are all permanently working from home and this has been communicated to their investors and stakeholders. This will also provide them with further opportunities when expanding their team. They will be able to employ the best people, regardless of their location, instead of the traditional focus being on sourcing the correct skills and knowledge in a particular geographical location. 

Partnership with SIGHT 

GenomeKey joined SIGHT following a personal recommendation by the Director of Innovation at the University of Portsmouth. GenomeKey had approached the university as they needed an academic partnership as part of their five-year grant application. In addition to the university agreeing to a long-term strategic partnership with GenomeKey, they also joined SIGHT at the very beginning of the programme.

As part of the SIGHT Programme, GenomeKey were able to visit the Portsmouth University Hospital to tour the microbiology laboratory. This provided them with the opportunity to speak with leading clinicians about their solution, plus gain the required knowledge about the current process of using blood samples to identify potential sepsis. GenomeKey were also able to see the equipment currently used and gain valuable feedback as to how the process could be improved in the future.

Pre-COVID, GenomeKey were also introduced to the Intensive Care lead clinician at Portsmouth University Hospital, where they gained substantial information and insight regarding the treatment of patients with sepsis. They hope that, post-COVID, these discussions will be able to recommence.

As members from commencement of the programme, they have seen many membership benefits. In person and online webinars were found to be very useful, covering a wide range of topics. Opportunities to network with other member companies were very beneficial. The integrated research culture between the university and hospital also allowed them to ‘bounce’ ideas around new colleagues and contacts, providing excellent feedback. The opportunity to tour the microbiology lab at Queen Alexandra Hospital, organised by the SIGHT Programme, provided them with insight which they would not have been able to gain any other means.

Future Plans

GenomeKey has a number of exciting plans for the future, starting in December 2020 when their grant award begins a five-year research programme. It is anticipated that their current team will grow from four to nine people, to enable the research to be conducted in the required time frame.

The goal is to develop a generic genotype to phenotype mapping system which can interpret any genetic information. A suite of algorithms will be developed to map samples accordingly. Currently, the ability to interpret the human genome is limited by the technology available. GenomeKey propose to introduce better tools in order to more accurately detect and identify disease from a human genome. 

Although primarily focused on bacteria, the GenomeKey team also want to research the expansion to other pathogens. Research will also include investigating whether this technology could be used to provide the diagnostic device at point of care, as an alternative to standard laboratory procedures.

Find out more about GenomeKey.

NTL Biologica
NTL Biologica

Company offers COVID-19 antibody testing with support from the SIGHT programme and the University

For NTL Biologica, a company supported by the ERDF-funded SIGHT programme, a

a precarious position has turned into an opportunity to grow and contribute to a great cause.

From stem cell to COVID

NTL Biologica – a small enterprise producing bone marrow growing kits –  found itself in a precarious position when all of their orders were cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the core business suspended, the company director Ian Graney made a decision to use the company’s expertise and state-of-the art equipment to contribute to the fight against the virus, and open a new line of business – antibody testing ‘on the go’.

Novel approach

The company’s antibody testing takes place on a bus, this means that instead of asking people to travel to a location or go to a drive-through testing centre, NTL can bring the testing facility to the community, minimising the risks associated with travel. The antibody test requires 20 milliliters of blood to be drawn for the result to be known as soon as 15 minutes later.

Helping companies assess risk

Ian and his company carry out the testing for communities, but also for companies who want to know how many of their employees have had the disease. By finding out who has had COVID-19 and who may have developed antibodies, the employers are in a better position to assess the risk to their staff and adjust their policies and procedures, for example moving employees to or from customer-facing roles and deciding for or against travel. The anonymised data is also used to inform the wider state of the pandemic by tracking the development of immunity in large groups.

Support from SIGHT and the University

The bus used for testing is part-funded by the SIGHT programme grant. Ian has been very involved in this ERDF-funded programme, run jointly by the University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth Hospital Trust and the Wessex CRN, engaging with other company members and supporting other SMEs operating in the healthcare technology sector.

Despite the challenging environment for healthcare companies, Ian thinks that businesses like NTL have the opportunity to not only survive but also make a meaningful contribution to the fight against COVID-19: ‘Take a deep breath, don’t panic. There’s a lot to be done and there are a lot of businesses who are easily geared to becoming part of the solution in the fight against Coronavirus in a small or a larger extent’

The company is hoping to soon start a clinical trial with the Portsmouth Technologies Trial Unit, in collaboration with the University of Portsmouth, working on an exciting new project in stem cell application in orthopaedics. Ian is keen on strengthening the company’s ties with the institution: ‘We are very grateful for the support of SIGHT and we are proud to be working with the University of Portsmouth’.

Glyconics
Glyconics

Infrared light spectroscopy in predicting lung flare-ups

Formed in 2013, Glyconics has developed a number of products which use infrared light spectroscopy to produce distinguished cell fingerprints in healthy and non-healthy samples. These products consist of a single piece of hardware with an inbuilt predictive algorithm, which allows for the diagnostic testing facility to be used at the patient Point of Care (POC).

The first sector for application of the Glyconics’ solution is in respiratory disease, specifically COPD, which is how the company became involved with the SIGHT Programme and Portsmouth University. In healthcare, there is a serious problem in determining when major lung attacks could occur in COPD patients. The Glyconics’ device uses sputum at the POC and can predict whether a flair-up is likely to occur ahead of time. This means a patient could be treated at home or in the community setting, to either prevent or reduce a flair-up and avoid a hospital admission.

Non-invasive type 2 diabetes detection

The second application, using infrared spectroscopy, is screening for risk of Type 2 Diabetes. For this screening, there is no requirement for a blood sample; instead a sensor that sits on a patient’s finger is used, similar to a pulse-oximeter, which are already very common in both primary and secondary healthcare settings. This technology will help identify those living with Type 2 Diabetes, who are unaware of it; a high percentage of those patients could reverse their diabetes with a proper treatment plan.

Challenges and successes

COVID and the UK lockdown impacted Glyconics quite heavily as many patients, who would normally be enrolled in their clinical studies, had to ‘shield’ and were unable to participate. Portsmouth University Hospital and SIGHT have been able to assist them to keep on track by supplying frozen samples. This enabled the research to continue.

Glyconics has also recently won a Phase 1 grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to explore the feasibility of implementing a point-of-care diagnostic platform for diabetic screening in developing countries.

Finally, Glyconics has been awarded the internationally recognised ISO 13485:2016 and EN ISO 13485:2016 quality certification for the design and development of their range of diagnostic medical devices. The scope of the certification includes the “design and development of medical devices for the diagnosis and monitoring of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and the screening of diabetes mellitus”, following a review by BSI.

SIGHT support

SIGHT gave Glyconics access to the Wessex AHSN as well as Portsmouth University Hospital clinicians. The SIGHT Programme has not only allowed Glyconics to get recognition for what they are doing but, also, gain access and credibility with clinicians in order to have clinical conversations and refine the product offering.

Glyconics felt that partners such as University or Portsmouth, Portsmouth University Hospital and the SIGHT Programme allowed them to gain knowledge in areas where their strengths did not previously lie i.e. regulatory expertise. In turn, by sharing their journey, others in a similar situation or with comparable goals can learn and benefit from the information and experiences of Glyconics. They have found that the level of one-to-one engagement provided through the SIGHT Programme is outstanding and they have never experienced anything like it elsewhere.

SIGHT helps provide knowledge to progress the project. Company’s CEO, Kam Pooni, believes that many great innovations are probably being lost because people do not know how to navigate the development and commercialisation process. SIGHT helps to bridge that gap and provides suitable access and resources to help innovators gain ground and traction with their solutions.

Exciting Future Plans

Ethics approval has recently been given to Glyconics for a clinical study to diagnose lung cancer at the Point of Care. The company will also be applying for a SIGHT Programme grant to support this effort.

In the future, Glyconics will be looking towards CE Marking their products. They will also be developing pilot programmes through the University and Hospital. A case study at Portsmouth University Hospital will be conducted to assess health economics of the solution, allowing them to move forward with access to the NHS marketplace.

Airway Medical Ltd

Pioneering medical suction device to share in £191m research and innovation funding

Airway Medical Ltd announced they have been awarded funding from Innovate UK, which is investing up to £191 million to fund both single and collaborative research and development projects via the Sustainable Innovation Fund over the next two years. The aim of these competitions is to help all sectors of the UK rebuild after the effects of COVID-19.

An innovative device

The Airway Medical Suction Unit (AMSU™) is the size of a sports bottle and unlike current emergency suction systems; it does not require batteries or electricity to work; is 90 per cent cheaper and 95 per cent smaller and lighter than current systems; and has no maintenance issues.  It does all of this while still meeting the same international standards of power-generated suction systems.

The device will also embed graphene-based technology provide 100 per cent protection against viruses or bacteria, such as Covid-19. This part of the project is in collaboration with Chelmsford-based company Versarien.

Typical scenarios of usage can be:

  • In a Covid-19 situation, the patient requires to have their airways cleared of sputum on a regular basis to prevent ingress into the lungs where it can harden and lead to the patient being admitted to ICU.
  • Paramedics may have to clear the airways of individuals who have had a seizure or have undergone a cardiac arrest.
  • In a care home environment, airway clearance may be used to support someone with a neurological illness such as Motor Neurone Disease, where the normal levels of salvia produced cannot be swallowed by the patient, or to remove food that has become lodged in the airway and is causing choking.

Support from the University

University researchers Dr Andrea BucchiDr Martino PaniAfshin Anssari-Benam and research associate George Bulac will be optimising the performance of the device to fulfil the stringent medical requirements in terms of volume flow rate and suction pressure. They will test different designs of the device that they will rapid prototype using the University’s 3D printing facilities.

Dr Andrea Bucchi, Senior Lecturer in Engineering Sciences, said: “When Airway approached us with the idea of the AMSU device in early April, during the first part of the lockdown period, we could immediately see the huge difference it could make. We’re very excited to bring our expertise to the project and the significant funding from Innovate UK will allow us to develop the concept further to provide real-world benefit to the community.”

The University of Portsmouth is also supporting the AMSU project through the SIGHT (Supporting Innovation and Growth in Healthcare Technologies) programme, a European Regional Development Fund business support project led by the University in conjunction with the Wessex CRN and Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust. SIGHT provided grant funding to help Airway Medical protect its intellectual property, as well as providing support and feedback on clinical requirements and potential trials from colleagues in the Portsmouth Technologies Trials Unit, a collaboration between the University and Portsmouth University Hospitals NHS Trust.

David Lubega, Collaboration Manager in Research and Innovation Services at University of Portsmouth, said: “We are extremely proud to be working with Airway Medical on this exciting and innovative project. We have a team of highly skilled research scientists and engineers who will be working collaboratively with Airway Medical helping to take their product all the way from early stage design through to product launch in 2021.”

Simon Hall from Airway Medical explains how the device works.

DERMA Project
Interreg DERMA

International collaboration for chronic wound treatment

The DERMA project, supported by Interreg 2 Seas programme, is now coming to the end of its 4-year venture. DERMA is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Brighton and University of Gent, who joined forces with the University of Portsmouth and biotech business facilitator, Eurasante, based in Lille, France. DERMA developed from a previous research project, Biocare Marine, which involved the use of marine polymers to develop novel biomaterials.

The DERMA team has developed dressing materials for the future care of chronic wounds – including a proof-of-concept diagnostic dressing to detect infection and new materials for odour management and controlled antimicrobial delivery. Simon Toh, Consultant Surgeon, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust says: ‘This is an exciting innovative material that addresses a great need to eliminate odours from chronic wound ulcers that blight the existence of our patients, limiting their social & personal lives. DERMA could have other promising applications too, like incorporating it into negative pressure dressings for surgical wounds, and for stoma care.’

The DERMA showcase event

The DERMA Project will be hosting a public event to demonstrate the outcomes of the project and its achievements. This showcase event will be held virtually on the 25th November 2020 and is open to anyone who would like to learn more about the project, including those from a clinical or a commercial background. A current affairs-style documentary programme, telling the story of the project and its results, will be followed by interactive panel discussions on chronic wound management – problems and solutions. Panel participants will include academics, clinicians, and industry experts.

How the SIGHT Programme is helping DERMA achieve its goals

The SIGHT and DERMA projects share common ground in terms of funding streams and institutional involvement. The SIGHT network has provided MedTech outreach within the UK to complement that of DERMA partner Eurasante in France, so extending and enhancing pathways to impact.

The DERMA team feels that the SIGHT Programme has allowed access to new networks. The proactive advice and leadership from SIGHT has been essential and invaluable in extending the reach of the DERMA project to a broader range of potential collaborators and stakeholders, which it might not have engaged with otherwise.

Future Plans

The DERMA team would like to work with the SIGHT programme to explore the possibility of clinical testing of the materials in collaboration with the Portsmouth Technology Trials Unit and Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust.

Ultimately, the DERMA consortium seeks to further develop the project materials and identify routes to market for technology transfer, for example by securing funding to increase the technology readiness levels, or by connecting with relevant companies that may wish to integrate DERMA components into their own product ranges.

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