Up to half of the patients who receive radiotherapy will suffer some level of collateral organ or tissue damage leading to a decline in quality of life, which can be debilitating or even lead to secondary tumours. That was the confronting message underpinning an opportunity to dramatically improve the precision of radiotherapy outlined at the launch of the NSW Active MedTech Community.
Saving and improving lives by making it easier to develop medical devices with electronics and software is the mission of the new community. There is a perception that developing such products is hard – so hard that it scares off a lot of people with otherwise great ideas. The community is seeking to change that perception by identifying critical success factors in the disciplines required for successful MedTech commercialisation.
At the community launch on 14 November at Venture Café Sydney, a case study was presented on MOSkin. MOSkin is a sensing technology for measuring the effective depth and intensity of radiation doses in real-time during radiotherapy treatments.
The NSW Active MedTech Community was launched by Anne O’Neill (lower right), Director of Enterprise & International Partnerships, NSW Health
The sensing technology was developed by the Centre for Medical Radiation Physics at the University of Wollongong and is being commercialised by Electrogenics Laboratories. The next stage of the commercialisation is to develop a single-use, disposable sensing system, customised for use during a variety of cancer treatments, as well as angiogram, diagnostic and interventional scans.
During a panel session discussing critical success factors for the project, one of the panellists revealed that they had a ten-year-old granddaughter undergoing radiotherapy at that very moment. In that moment, everyone in the room realised just how real the mission of their fledgling community was.
Reportedly, 90% of innovations fail and that figure is likely to be higher in the active MedTech space. Every one of those failures represents lives lost or not improved. What would it take to achieve a 90% success rate? That is a key question the NSW Active MedTech Community aims to address.
It is true that the regulatory requirements for medical devices involving electricity is more onerous than inert products. However, when you break a development project down it’s not all that complex, you just need people who know what they are doing in each aspect of the project.
One of the best-kept secrets of NSW is that we have world-class service providers in every category of expertise required to successfully commercialise medical devices. Active MedTech disciplines include industrial design, regulatory strategy, quality systems, intellectual property, financing, software and electronics, to name just a few.
Panellists at the launch event
There is a widespread perception that you need to go to Victoria or overseas to get active medical devices developed. One of the goals of the community is to dispel that myth and shine a light on the quality of our service providers here in NSW.
The NSW Active MedTech Community is the brainchild of two companies sponsoring the community – Genesys Electronics Design and Circuitwise Electronics Manufacturing, contract developers of Active MedTech products. The two companies focus on the electronics and software aspects of a MedTech device but work with a wide range of other service providers to help the client bring their product to life.
Genesys CEO Geoff Sizer and Circuitwise GM Serena Ross, observed that a key challenge MedTech entrepreneurs face is the number of steep learning curves in multiple disciplines required to develop a product. Genesys has mapped up to 40 distinct skill sets required for successful commercialisation.
“An entrepreneur can hire expert service providers in all these areas, but they must still be an informed buyer,” Serena said. “In addition, expert service providers can be very siloed, with little knowledge of the critical success factors underpinning the skill sets of other service providers. This puts the onus back on the entrepreneur get a multitude of stars to align.
Unfortunately, this can be too much to handle for inexperienced MedTech developers.”
To help reduce the learning curve for entrepreneurs, Geoff suggested running a series of thought leadership webinars from experts in each of the 40 odd skill areas identified in his company’s MedTech industry mapping exercise. These presentations will highlight the critical success factors required for successful MedTech commercialisation.
“Efforts to date encouraging innovation in the MedTech industry have largely focused on connecting ‘industry’ to our research institutions,” Geoff said. “While research plays an important role in innovation, it is only one of the 40 categories we identified. We need to have a greater focus on the important role other service providers play in bringing innovation to life.”