Our MedTech Showcase event was truly one to remember and we are beyond happy with how the day played out. Working collaboratively with Nexus, the University of Leeds, and the Leeds Digital Festival, we succeeded in our ambition to provide a platform to the region’s MedTech innovators and adopters embracing technology to showcase the important work that is being realised, especially here in Leeds.
A key element of the day’s agenda was a host of engaging panel discussions that looked to tackle topical issues prevalent in the MedTech industry. For those of you that missed the event, or those who just want to relive it, we have pulled together some core highlights from the panels of the day.
The founders perspective: panel of MedTech founders
The first panel of the day was a stellar line-up of founders who gave a candid discussion surrounding their journey in the healthcare industry, demonstrating both trials and tribulations.
The panel included:
- Saile Villegas – Director at Seeai, a MedTech company with a solution to solve the shortage of radiologists.
- Giles Tully – CEO at PinPoint Data Science, harnessing the power of AI in cancer diagnostics.
- Dr. Georgios Gerardos – Founder of Great North Research & Innovation, GRNI’s principal mission is to alleviate the suffering caused by Sepsis.
- Facilitated by Stuart Clarke – Festival Director of Leeds Digital Festival
Stuart Clarke began the discussion with a question that many aspiring MedTech start-ups would love to know the answer to:
How did you navigate the NHS to gain the buy-in or adoption?
Saile explains how “We were very lost at the beginning, and we had no contacts, but we knew that we wanted to push our idea forward. We contacted Nexus and they were able to introduce us to the research department which helped us shape our product into something that could address clinical issues. The Innovation Pop-Up at Leeds Teaching Hospital helped us to broaden our connections by putting us in touch with the right people. You may be rejected many times, but don’t be discouraged.”
Speaking of relationships, how easy is it to scale to other Trusts?
Giles speaks on this matter “Our company was able to gain a few grants, some of which enabled us to expand into other Trusts. To add to this, we are a member of multiple cancer alliances and the Academic Health Science Network and it’s important to connect with each of them as people in this industry all know each other, and it operates as its own ecosystem. Eventually, this does pay off, it’s not quite starting again but there is a degree of it.”
What more support could you have from universities?
Georgios discusses how “The greatest difficulty we had in our journey was finding lab space, in particular wet lab spaces. There is a very limited number of wet lab space to be able to test your ideas and it needs to come from a university level. We were very lucky to secure a space, with it being the only one available at the time. The universities can also act in other ways of providing guidance as they did for our project, both on a business level and on reporting and presentation, as well as corporate governance, which my background has not prepared me for.”
What would make the funding process easier?
“I think the bit for me that matters is that there definitely needs to be something that helps people who are not as lucky to go unpaid while building a company. I was able to pay myself nothing for a year, but that’s not normal. The problem with grants is that the funds must be allocated to capital spending and are restrictive. But how are you meant to pay rent? There definitely needs to be something that helps young innovators get access to funding that supports them. Once you are on the conveyor belt it’s easier to access funding, but it’s difficult to get on.” – Giles
Panel of industry experts
Next up on the day’s agenda was a panel of experts that represent core elements of a MedTech company’s journey into the healthcare field.
The panel included:
- Vicki Dodsworth – Lead Clinical Procurement Specialist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
- Fiona Costello – VP of National Accreditations at ORCHA
- Chris Vaughn – European and UK Patent Attorney, Senior Partner at HGF
- Will Schaffer – Investment Director at Mercia Asset Management
- Chaired by Georgia Halston – Group CEO of Halston Group
Each expert discussed how best to approach each specialism and critically when to do so. From the talk, we found that each area should be approached in conjunction and early on in a MedTech’s journey.
What would you say is the biggest challenge MedTech start-ups come up against?
Will gave his opinion on this from an investment perspective.
“There is a long period between early phase two and getting revenue and traction. Articulating where you are in that journey can make it more challenging to find investors. I think if you’re not within a very established category where you go through defined phases, it can make it difficult, but if you’re doing something really innovative, you may be on a newer journey. I see that a lot with digital tools, where those kinds of channels are still being shaped.”
At what stage should a MedTech company see a patent attorney about IP?
Chris says “It would be best to have a patent application before you start talking with investors and customers. A patent application demonstrates what you have created, and this can be built up over time. Be cautious with your information as well, in meetings make sure people sign NDAs. A lot of the magic happens under the bonnet so be sure not to share all the nuts and bolts but showing the results can be valuable. Try to bring the NHS on the journey of protecting this product with you.”
Where does accreditation come in and what journey should they expect?
As the subject matter expert, Fiona explains “Accreditation helps to make MedTech more meaningful to those on the ground. At ORCHA, we are able to weigh your product in accordance with the NICE Framework and are able to distinguish where it stands in the market. I would suggest doing this as early as possible so that when you get to the NHS assessment, you’re not having to retrofit which can be very expensive. For futureproofing, I would suggest getting the basics right such as data security and privacy as it won’t move further without this. There are frameworks you can follow to assess you as a digital supplier, but local organisations have begun building up their own regulations that are more comprehensive on their needs.”
When knocking on the door of the NHS, what do businesses need to prioritise for procurement?
Vicki enlightens the audience on this “My main piece of advice would be to try not and make procurement fit your product, but instead address a real need that we have. Do your research and really understand your customer, understand the needs of the Trust and I would say it’s always wise to get procurement involved early. Beyond that, map out the organisation you are looking to work with and gain a champion from each relevant area to back you in the approval process.”
The solution so far: panel of Surgeons, Doctors, and Clinicians
Last but by no means least, we finished the panel discussions with the industry-leading doctors who are embracing MedTech and its infinite possibilities. They discussed how technology is being directly applied in their clinical setting and the outcome that has been realised so far.
Chaired by Matt Robinson, Head of Nations and Regions at techUK, the panel included:
- Dr. Ryan Matthew – Associate Professor & Honorary Consultant Neurosurgeon, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
- Dr. Tze Min Wah – Sr Consultant Radiologist in Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, University of Leeds
- Prof Darren Treanor – Consultant Pathologist, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Honorary Clinical Professor, University of Leeds
As the people in the thick of the healthcare transformation, Matt Robinson started by asking the panel
What has technology revolutionised so far?
“I think there are many facets to that. I think the health tech revolution has really brought the ability to educate our patients and students and perform safer surgeries. My area of specialisation is brain tumours, and MRI scans are becoming more complex. We are running multiple sequences of patients over time with the molecular data becoming complex. How we integrate all of this to really understand how best to treat patients is really where I see the greatest advancement in the last 10 years. And now of course we are seeing new health tech innovations where we can see ways to visualise the volume and quality that we never could before. It opens up multimodal imagery, and we see ways to analyse things in real-time and of course we look at much more simple things that free up resources.” -Ryan Matthew
As the clinicians truly get to test and trial the technology in practice, Matt wanted to know:
What innovation are you most excited about?
Darren took the lead on this to discuss the potential within pathology “For me, I am most excited about digital pathology. About 20 years ago people started to think maybe we should look at this slide imagery on a computer rather than in a microscope. The problem is when you compare it to a similar image type such as an x-ray. If printed it would actually be the size of a room, but we would have thousands to process. However, the infrastructure surrounding displays, storage, and graphic cards has become much more advanced, so we saw it was more possible digital pathology on a national scale.”
Because of course, we are very geographically biased, Matt chose to ask the panel:
Why we should anchor MedTech investment here in the region?
Tze explores the unique qualities that Leeds is home to.
“Leeds has such an amazing infrastructure, where Universities and hospitals are eager to work closely with MedTech companiess, host regular events, and build a strong network. Countries elsewhere are spending millions to replicate the same sort of environment, as I think they recognise that is something really special and important. But ours has been organically grown and I think continuing to build this community is so crucial.”
We had an incredible time hosting the MedTech Showcase in collaboration with our partners and are so grateful to each of the industry experts that dedicated their time to the event and brought with them truly unique insight to broaden the conversation and help others in the sector progress further.
If you would like to gain a full overview of the day, then make sure to take a look at our blog The Leeds MedTech Showcase: A Hub of Innovation in the North
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