World leaders in innovative healthcare ideas were in Derry last week for the fourth annual Translational Medicine Conference (TMED4) hosted by C-TRIC.
The event, at the City Hotel, attracted those involved in the global business of developing novel advances and products for improved healthcare - particularly in the areas of inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
The conference was organised by C-TRIC, the Waterside-based clinical evaluation centre and healthcare innovation hub based on the Altnagelvin Hospital campus.
C-TRIC is the only facility of its type in Ireland or Britain linking clinicians, academics and business people under one roof in the drive to advance translational medicine initiatives.
The annual conference is a leading international focal point for the exploration of translational medicine which is a rapidly growing global market centred on the speedy and cost-effective translation of novel healthcare ideas from concept through to point of care.
Around 150 technologists, academics, healthcare practitioners, researchers and bioindustry R&D managers attended the two-day conference where they heard keynote addresses and exchanged ideas with successful trailblazers in translational medicine and healthcare experts from the United States.
They included Trung Do, Executive Director of Business Development at Partners HealthCare. In fiscal year 2011, Partners had a combined research budget of more than $1.3 billion, upwards of $100 million in annual licensing income and in excess of 460 new invention disclosures.
Also taking part was Dr Susan Whoriskey, from Boston. who is Senior Vice President at Moderna Therapeutics and a former Entrepreneur in Residence (Life Sciences) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She told delegates of her role in the establishment of a number highly successful biotech start ups from MIT.
Another US participant was Rick Lee, CEO of Healthrageous, a behavioral change company launched by Partners HealthCare and the Center for Connected Health, based in Boston.
He provided a fascinating presentation considering patients as consumers and introducing novel systems that promise to encourage behaviour aimed at improving long term health.
TMED4 also represented an opportunity for local healthcare innovators to showcase developments. They included advances in disease-management, diagnostics, therapeutics, personalised medicine and personalised nutrition.
Dr Kevin Curran presented and demonstrated the novel ‘Data Glove’ which is aimed at improving patient care of those diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis - the result of a collaboration between the School of Computing and Intelligent Systems at UU Magee and the Western Health and Social Care Trust.
Dr Cathy McGeough, a Research Associate in Stratified Medicine at UU, and Dr Martin Crockard, of Randox Laboratories, briefed participants about an initiative that will help many people who have rheumatoid arthritis and save the health service millions of pounds each year.
The University of Ulster-Randox collaboration - based at C-TRIC - has developed a simple personalised test which will enable life-changing drug treatment to be tailored to the needs of people who have the chronic inflammatory disease.
Also at the conference, Dr Carol Wilson of the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, the nutrition arm of UU’s top-performing Biomedical Sciences Research Institute (BMSRI), spoke of her recent research which found increased intake of vitamin B2, which is in dairy products, can significantly lower blood pressure among some people who have a particular genetic factor.
Among the many others who took part in the conference was Michael Caulfield, CEO of Intelesens, the healthcare technology spin-out company from the University of Ulster. It is a leading innovator in non-invasive vital signs monitoring equipment, much of it highly miniaturised, lightweight, unobtrusive and easily worn under clothing, used in remote patient monitoring and personal telehealth.
Dr Maurice O’Kane Chief Executive of C-TRIC and R&D Director at the Western Trust, said: “It is great to see how our annual conference has grown in stature each year. It is fantastic also to see so many local examples of novel concepts and ideas for improved healthcare being translated into practice and I know C-TRIC has certainly played a key role in many of these developments.
“Our conference was designed to encourage engagement across academic, business and clinical disciplines and we have seen that in abundance this week, we hope that collaborations will be forged that will lead to even more exciting healthcare advances, product developments and investment opportunities locally.”