Tag Archives: Innovation

Marc Koska – The Disposable Syringe That Has Saved Over Nine Million Lives

Marc has been credited with saving the lives of over nine million people worldwide. His single-use syringe has prevented the spread of blood-borne infections and his charity SafePoint is dedicated to educating the world about the dangers of syringe re-use.

In the last ten years Marc Koska has been to India 43 times, travelled to 64 developing countries, battled with the World Health Organization and been awarded an OBE. So getting a moment with him was a real privilege.

Marc sits opposite and opens his laptop. On the screen is a picture of a monk, who is glancing out of the frame with his orange tunic held together by a bulldog clip. Marc tells us that the monk is from a village called Roka in Cambodia. “He has become our poster boy for unsafe syringes. He’s 82, celibate and is the spiritual leader of the whole valley with approximately 1,000 people and he’s HIV positive. How? Because the local doctor was using the same syringe over and over again whilst treating patients.” Earlier this year Marc travelled with the BBC to Roka, a remote village in Cambodia where 272 residents contracted HIV because of the re-use of syringes spreading the disease.

This is exactly the sort of thing Marc has worked most of his life to stop. It was in 1984 when he was working on a Caribbean island as a forensic model maker that an idea came to him. “I arrived there in ’82 and HIV was identified in ’81. All the US media could talk about was this new killer disease that was going to wipe out the planet. Every restaurant changed to plastic cutlery, there were ‘sprays’ in every toilet for the seats, no-one really knew what was going on.” It was on the island that he read a story in The Guardian about how one day syringes would be a huge transmission route for HIV and other viruses. “I knew then exactly what I wanted to do. I read everything I could about the disease and spent the next three years finding out about the problem.” Those three years were spent back in England where he worked as a painter and decorator and then spent all his spare time in a library, or meeting syringe manufacturers, finding out about pricing structures, travelling to immunisation camps, factories, warehouses.

He said, “I made sure I knew as much as possible that there was to know about the syringe and what it had to do.” He concluded that the solution to the problem of a multi-use syringe had to be simple, made on existing machinery and importantly, sold at the same price. He spent the next few years sourcing manufacturers, searching out funding streams and making his idea a reality. Eventually he designed a syringe (K1) that could be made on existing equipment but with a small, very important modification… it would fall apart after one use. However it took 14 years more to sell his first syringe. The reason for this Marc explains is that “Manufacturers make money. Syringes are a commodity. They weren’t interested in making safer syringes because there was no guarantee that they would sell.” The turning point however, was his first sale to UNICEF in 2001. They started to use the auto-disable syringes and that gave great credibility to the product.

During those frustrating 14 years Marc travelled the world witnessing bad practice again and again. This gave him the focus to keep going and bring the syringe to market to help stop the spread of Aids and other serious diseases. He moved back to his laptop and showed us a video filmed on a hidden camera in a hospital in Tanzania. A teenager walks into a small room, the hidden camera pans and we see the nurse looking at his notes. Marc informs us that this young man has HIV and syphilis. The nurse takes a syringe from the tray and administers the drug. “You can see she has trouble penetrating the patient’s skin because the needle has been used numerous times before.” he tells us. The teenager gets up and leaves. The nurse returns the syringe to the tray. Moments later a mother turns up with her one-year-old daughter. The nurse turns and picks up the same syringe and uses it on the child. Watching the video we find ourselves shouting at the nurse not to use the syringe, but this happens daily in many hospitals around the world, according to Marc. “What is really odd in places like India and Africa, is that there are lots of precautions people take with regard to matters of hygiene that they wouldn’t dream of transgressing. For example, a mother wouldn’t offer her drinking cup to her child, and they wouldn’t dream of sharing a toothbrush. So why share a syringe?”

Marc knew that to effect change, cultural shifts had to be made which was why in 2005 he founded SafePoint, a registered charity dedicated to educating the public about the dangers of reusing needles. One of the trust’s first campaigns was in India, but the minister of health, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss had refused to see him. He informed the media and national newspapers who led with the headlines ‘Ramadoss refuses to see Syringe Guru.’ More than 240 newspapers printed the story within five days. TV and radio were also asking ‘who is this syringe guru?’ and ‘why will the minister not meet him?’ This exposure helped Marc spread his message of ‘One Injection, One Syringe’ and people listened. At the same time they released a video to back up the campaign and this culminated in a meeting with Dr Ramadoss, who then made a landmark announcement to put a policy in place for the recommendation of auto-disable syringes in government hospitals and health centres throughout India.

Another huge success was with the World Health Organization (WHO). After years of lobbying Marc recalls, “I was at a conference with Margaret Chan the director general of the World Health Organization. I wouldn’t leave her alone for two days until she agreed to see me for a formal meeting. I explained to her exactly how we could effect change and save millions of lives each year through the use of single-use syringes. I said to her that if you write the policy, I’ll make this whole thing work.” Following the discussion WHO started a global campaign in 2015 to eradicate the dirty needle. The new guidelines stipulated that every injection must come under scrutiny and be safely engineered. The consequences of this over time will be huge, preventing great misery, savings millions of lives as well saving billions of dollars throughout the world.

Marc has sold more than six billion single-use syringes since the first sales back in 2001, he has opened the eyes of governments around the world and influenced the World Health Organization but he is still not satisfied, mainly because of the inertia of global medical businesses to fully embrace the concept. Through his inventions, his persistence and his dogged determination he has saved the lives of millions and before we left he shared with us his latest projects, the next generation of syringes, needles and bottles that will be easier to make, store and transport, saving time, money and most importantly lives.

www.safepointtrust.org

Learn more about the #HealthcareHeroes at: www.healthcare-heroes.com

Matt Durran – The Artist Pioneering Nose Reconstruction Surgery

Matt is an artist working with glass, who had never planned to work in the medical world. But when an opportunity came up that involved growing human noses within glass moulds, he jumped at the chance.

Just under the railway bridge at the end of a row of shops, there is a red door with frosted glass. The only suggestion of an artist’s residence is the pressed ceramic house number screwed to the wall. We ring the bell tentatively half expecting it to be the wrong address, but with a clunk of keys and a swing of the door Matt Durran, an artist working in glass, welcomes us in.

We first heard about Matt’s work through the Craft Council. He didn’t seem an obvious choice for a healthcare publication like this one, but after a bit of research around his work, we were fascinated and got in contact. Matt prides himself on his variety of work. Over the years his explorations have taken him from ancient lava-formed obsidian to stockpiled waste glass and the frontiers of new technologies. He has created unique pieces of installation art, up cycled waste glass as well as solved specific problems for the medical industry. One of Matt’s early jobs was carving ice for an events company back in the 1990s. He said, “It seemed a bit crazy, you’d do all that work for it just to melt away so I wanted to do something more permanent and was really intrigued by glass.” He started on lots of different projects using glass but quickly realised that he needed to understand the material technology side. When he got the opportunity to study in Sunderland and Copenhagen he jumped at it. He was fascinated with the technical and cultural differences in approach between the two countries. This led to a re-evaluation of his practice.

Matt’s insight into the material possibilities of glass, alongside his artistic ability to make creative leaps made him the obvious choice for the team at the Royal Free Hospital. They needed bespoke, highly accurate products but hadn’t managed to find a medical glass maker who could produce exactly what they were looking for, which was to create a non-reactive, detailed mould for tissue-engineered cartilage specifically to create a nose. Matt knew it could be done. He said, “Glass is the perfect material to use for this, it’s been used in the medical industry for 250 years, it can be sterilised easily, it’s inert and you can see cells growing through the material. It can also be manipulated to exact requirements.”

His creative approach allowed him to experiment with a number of different moulds until he happened upon one that would work perfectly. He began with a plaster cast of his own nose and then used a technique called slumping – laying warm glass over a mould with painstaking care – to make several glass moulds of his own nose. The moulds were then filled with a synthetic material, which contained the patients cells to create the scaffolding of the nose. It was then grown in a bioreactor. Once the basic structure of the nose was created it was attached to the inside of the patients forearm. This bio-integration allows blood vessels to populate it and skin to fix to it, a process that can take months. Then after successful bio-integration the nose is surgically removed from the forearm and carefully attached to the face. Matt said, “Although my part’s a small one, it’s an important part.’’ Getting the nose accurate for people is very important so the detail of the mould had to be just right. A lot of the patients lose their nose through cancer and other illnesses.

Losing something so central to the face can bring a loss of identity and self esteem, so this process allows patients to get back the important body part as well as their confidence. Since that first nose Matt has gone on to make a lot of different moulds for noses, ears and even voice boxes. He said, “Each nose job was completely different. I remember one particular nose I needed to re-create had a real bend in it and I suggested straightening it out to which I was met with ‘no thanks, that’s what makes my nose unique’.”

The research around this type of surgery is still on going and Matt’s skills are still requested from time to time, but his next project is away from the medical field in macro glass sculpture. He added, “My father said to me… the best job in the world is the one that’s different every day. If that’s true, then I guess I have the best job in the world.” Matt’s creative input opened doors for researchers that were previously closed. He researched, experimented and created moulds that were simple in production but detailed in execution giving patients the confidence to once again be comfortable in their own skin. An artist working in glass may be the last person you would associate with the medical industry but researchers may now increasingly look to local craftsmen to play a vital part in the process, acknowledging that problems sometimes need that external creative input to reach the desired outcome.

www.mattdurran.com

Learn more about the #HealthcareHeroes at: www.healthcare-heroes.com

Naomi Campbell – The simple measures that change patient hydration

It all started with a simple idea for a micro-straw. Now Naomi Campbell is a hydration nurse specialist and is the founder and Innovation Director at Simple Measures, a public interest company set up to improve hydration across all areas of health and social care.

It was at home where the idea first came to Naomi Campbell.  “I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner,” she remarked. She was watching her daughter play hands free with a toy made of plastic strands. Her daughter was using a single strand (about a metre in length) as a drinking straw to get a flow of water just by sucking very gently, while lying down in bed. Naomi had a go, and instantly knew this simple concept could be developed to create an entirely new type of drinking aid.

Five years previously Naomi, a nurse, had been caring for her sick mother. She had taken a number of months off to look after her around the clock with the help of her family. “Even with one-to-one care 24 hours a day, mum would still get dehydrated.” Preventing dehydration is an epidemic problem in elderly care.  According to recent figures, one in five people coming into hospital are under-hydrated. This has a massive impact on resources as it is often the root cause of acute admissions to hospital due to urine infections, falls and confusion and acute kidney injury which is now known to cost the health service more than breast, skin, and lung cancer combined. Following the experience with her mum, Naomi worried that nurses and carers on busy wards would find it very hard to adequately support and monitor patients’ hydration intake. It was a concern that stayed with her, laying dormant until that moment when she saw her daughter sucking on the toy straw.  From that day Naomi knew she wanted to focus her energy on solving the problem of poor hydration in hospitals, care homes and the community.

Naomi set about developing new ideas to help improve basic hydration care and gained funding from her then employer Peninsula Community Health, to help support her ideas and ultimately create a unique new nursing innovation role. She also spoke to relevant ‘innovation’ groups to help develop her ideas into practice. The first product Naomi brought to test phase was a new hydration risk assessment tool with a simple ‘traffic light’ drinks coaster system. The coloured coasters would act as a visual aid for nurses and carers alike. The simple idea indicates how capable the patient is at hydrating themselves… green being independent,  amber signifying some help needed, and red signalling full support needed from a carer. The initial trials of the coasters were a huge success. Nurses on a busy ward could quickly glance at a patient and check their hydration status. This gave Naomi the confidence to trial her next product… a mug that had a measuring device inside it. “A lot of the time frail elderly patients take just a few sips of their tea or coffee and that would be it.” This mug allows carers to more accurately measure the amount drunk, before then throwing the rest away. These products, although very simple were proving to be a hit with frontline nurses, care staff, patients and their families.

Back in 2010, Naomi secured a Regional Innovation Fund of £15,000 and with support from NHS Innovations Southwest she continued to develop the design of her new drinking aid known as the ‘micro-straw’. On December 25th 2013, her micro-straw was officially granted a UK patent. Since that light bulb moment back in her daughter’s bedroom in 2009 Naomi has become the ‘go to’ person for hydration. After developing the first drinking risk assessment tool based on ‘reliance on a carer’  in 2011, she was asked to join hydration work stream groups with the Care Quality Commission and the Department of Health, and was also asked to contribute to a large fluid management study, as well as being invited to write a number of articles for nursing journals. Naomi was also part of a parliamentary forum based at the House of Lords to raise awareness about hydration. She said, “There is a fine line between passion and obsession and for the past six years I feel I have been constantly operating within that space.” She is now the founder and Innovation Director at Simple Measures, a new community interest company established in October 2016, that allows her to focus her time on improving hydration care across all areas of health and social care.

Simple Measures is now working closely with frontline care providers, researchers, educators, manufacturers and product designers to help develop simple, cost-effective ways to improve basic hydration care. She said, “Simple Measures now has a clear focus on delivering a bespoke training programme focused entirely on basic but fundamental hydration care, and I am absolutely thrilled we are developing our current and new products.” Dehydration is a global problem and the company is already linking with people in the UK, Europe, America and Australia.  Naomi also firmly believes the ‘micro-straw’  – which triggered her passion for improving hydration, has massive potential to support humanitarian, life saving, oral rehydration therapy for children, as it is widely known that acute dehydration caused by diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old.

An idea that started in a small village six years ago has culminated in the formation of a new company dedicated to preventing ‘avoidable’ dehydration. One that can now start to tackle a global problem, through education and simple cost-effective products that will improve and save the lives of countless vulnerable people of all ages. Furthermore it will highlight the vital role of frontline carers across the world who every day make great efforts to assist and encourage people to drink enough to remain adequately hydrated.

Learn more about the #HealthcareHeroes at: www.healthcare-heroes.com

Sophie De Oliveira Barata – The woman turning prosthetics into an art form

Sophie’s creative approach is changing the face of the prosthetic industry. Her designs allow amputees to celebrate their individuality with style, from crystal encrusted arms, to legs with built-in speakers, each piece is completely unique.

“It’s a bit of a mess I’m afraid,” she says. Sophie De Oliveira Barata leads us down a dimly lit corridor to her studio space. Large meter canvases lean against the walls left over from a public art trail the weekend before. We’ve read lots about Sophie’s work, The Alternative Limb Project and were eager to see the studio where all her creations come to life.

With four white washed walls and a row of windows on one side allowing light to penetrate the room it seems a fairly typical studio space, but its contents are anything but typical. Hanging on one wall is a mixture of tools and limbs and next to the screwdriver is a realistic foot. Underneath a hanging hand saw is an arm reaching up from the desktop. Above us we see the head and shoulders of a balding man with one eye. There are visual delights wherever we look. I spin round to see the soles of two realistic feet opened at the top with laces to tie them up, both resting neatly on a wooden step ladder. Then there are the more artistic pieces that catch our attention… the oriental styled blue and ivory leg with drawers in it or the elegant jewelled arm with realistic fingertips. Sophie notices our open mouths and curious eyes, smiles and says, “I’ve always been interested in tricking the eye and mixing fantasy with reality.”

Sophie’s background is in fine art but she gained her limb-making prowess from an early job creating prosthetics. While this didn’t allow her creativity to flow it did develop her detailed model-making skills. It was in her spare time that she explored her creative side, producing costume jewellery pieces for her and her friends to wear. After a while she was keen to harness the creative freedom of the costume pieces and combine that with the detailed skills learned from her day job. So she set about finding a person to build an alternative limb for. Viktoria Modesta was the ideal amputee, a model and singer who embraced and celebrated her individuality. The two met and Sophie set about creating a number of pieces for her, one of which she wore at the London 2012 Paralympic closing ceremony. A picture of Viktoria hangs framed in the studio wearing the limb. It’s a striking piece, fitted to Viktoria’s leg just below the knee socket. It’s full of rhinestones, shards of mirrored plastic and studded with Swarovski diamonds.

Viktoria’s limb was a talking point and it gained Sophie a lot of attention. Since that time she has created a number of alternative limbs, from a nature inspired flowered leg to a ‘Metal Gear Solid’ bionic arm for a man who lost his right arm in a train accident. Sophie said, “I’m really interested in pushing the boundaries and unlocking imagination, whether it’s mine or the person I’m working with. It’s also great to get the general public excited and hear them discuss ‘If I were an amputee what would I have?’”

Her work can be split into two areas, the realistic limbs and the alternative limbs. Sophie makes about six alternative limbs per year, most are privately funded and she will work directly with a client to explore the possibilities and ensure their personality is represented. She said, “There is a genuine need for realistic limbs so I’ll continue to produce them but I want to keep pushing the boundaries in my work with alternative limbs. The world is constantly changing and more and more amputees now see their limbs as accessories.” It is easy to see a future where people will own a number of limbs depending on the situation, the conservative realistic looking limb for work, right next to the flashy personally designed statement piece to wear on a night out. Sophie’s work is allowing people to express their individuality rather than hide it away.

In the world of prosthetics function has always won over fashion, but Sophie’s work now offers the opportunity to fuse functionality with personality. The alternative limbs Sophie creates are just that, they are as different as the people she makes them for. You can’t pigeon-hole her work, it travels from real to surreal and visits every stop in between. The creativity flows through each unique piece, from crystal encrusted arms to legs with built-in speakers. Her work celebrates individuality in its purest form and allows people to celebrate their differences in ways they never thought possible.

www.thealternativelimbproject.com

Learn more about the #HealthcareHeroes at: www.healthcare-heroes.com

Matt Eagles – The man who doesn’t let Parkinson’s stop him. Ever.

Living with Parkinson’s disease from the age of eight certainly hasn’t stopped Matt living life to the full. Over the years he’s jumped out of planes, abseiled town halls, photographed Team GB at the 2012 Olympics for ESPNSoccernet and is now working as a patient engagement lead to pass on his experiences of living with Parkinson’s.

We meet Matt at his home, he sits opposite us talking about his school days. “The head teacher of my first school, Headley Cleaver, first noticed me falling backwards in assembly,” he said. At the same time he recalls having trouble at swimming lessons where his legs would just start to sink. Matt was referred to his GP Dr Fox who got the ball rolling and sent him to the Booth Hall Children’s Hospital. However it was a chance encounter at the local infirmary where the breakthrough was made. It was there that Dr Liversedge suggested to Matt’s parents that he try Sinemet, a drug for Parkinson’s disease. The tablets seemed to work, and more importantly from Matt’s perspective he was given 50p by the doctor for taking this bold step to try them out, unfortunately it didn’t stop Matt having some tough times at school.

“One of my teachers called me ‘sparrow legs’ another teacher called me ‘dead legs’. In my first year of senior school, I was dragged into a class by fellow pupils and the teacher forced me to lie on the floor under the black board for the whole lesson to, in her eyes, recover. I couldn’t get up.” One way Matt got around some of the torment was to get involved in everything he possibly could and because his legs were weak, his upper body got really strong. He said, “I used to arm wrestle the strongest lads in the year. There was only one of the rugby lads who ever beat me and he went on to become a professional rugby player, so that used to get me a bit of street cred.”

Over the years Matt has tried lots of drugs to control his Parkinson’s. He used to have to inject himself each day inserting a canula into his stomach and then attach a syringe driver which administered the toxic drug intravenously. The needle remained in place all day until he went to bed. “One of the drugs would work like Viagra,” he said, and would cause extreme startle, making him jump out of his skin when the phone rang, which was very awkward in the telesales arena where he worked. Another one of the drugs caused a potentially catastrophic Impulse Control Disorder to appear. “All of a sudden I started to gamble heavily and lost thousands of pounds. I realised something was seriously wrong and spoke to my consultant who took me off the treatment immediately. Pretty much over night the gambling subsided and the risk taking behaviour disappeared.” Just over ten years ago Matt had deep brain stimulation. He now has two electrodes that go into his brain and are powered by a battery in his chest. The implants control his stiffness and rigidity and can be remotely adjusted depending on the severity of the symptoms.

The symptoms are still there though and can become more exaggerated with emotions or mistiming drugs, but they are a lot more manageable than they used to be. He was in hospital for nearly three weeks and it changed his life. “Simple things,” he says, “like before the treatment, at night I used to roll out of bed and pee into a bottle on the floor because I couldn’t make it to the bathroom. Now I can stand up and walk to the toilet.” Matt worked in publishing for over 20 years and during that time he started writing football match reports for the local paper. “It combined two of my loves… writing and photography.” Photography certainly isn’t the first pastime you would think of for someone with Parkinson’s but this hasn’t stopped Matt. Back in 2012 he got an amazing opportunity through ESPNSoccernet to photograph the football at the 2012 Olympics. He said, “I’ve never at any point thought I’ve got Parkinson’s so I can’t do this. I just worked out exactly how I could capture what I’d need. So I got my press pass and followed Team GB around, photographing both men’s and women’s games at Old Trafford, Wembley and the Millennium Stadium. It was amazing.”

Unfortunately he was made redundant recently and found it incredibly difficult, despite his experience, to find a job. “I didn’t want to think it, but the fact that I talked a lot about my Parkinson’s and the work I’d done around it on my CV didn’t help me at all.” He continued to do what he enjoyed, writing and photography, but as well as match reports he started to write about his experiences with Parkinson’s. He was sharing his experiences through Parkinson’s UK and on social media and it wasn’t long before he’d written more and more articles and was being interviewed a lot. He said, “I’ve appeared on Sky News, Sky Radio, daytime TV, Five Live, Radio Wales, World Service and I was featured in the Independent, Mirror, Sun, Express.” He is now working as a ‘patient engagement lead’, and an ambassador for Medtronic who manufacturer what Matt calls, ‘My brain pacemaker’.

We talked some more about social media and the ability to talk to people and share experiences. He said, “Once, I was making a sandwich, I’d managed to spread the butter without wrecking the bread, I’d managed to cut the cheese without chopping my fingers off, I put the bread on top and then had a twitch and knocked the sandwich straight into the dog’s water bowl. I was gutted.” He dealt with it by sharing the moment on social media and it instantly started a conversation with people who had similar instances. “Sharing a frustrating moment allows me to laugh at it rather than get annoyed. I enjoy sharing my experiences, ultimately it helps me cope. I hope it helps others too.”

Because Matt has had Parkinson’s from an early age, he’s had no choice but to live with it. He said, “I’ve not really known anything different.” Living with Parkinson’s every day is different; some days can be great and others can be really dark and it’s this breadth of experience that he can share with others, people who are new to the condition who are trying to find ways of dealing with it. “It’s lovely to get feedback from people saying they’ve heard me on the radio or TV and they’ve felt less alone. I’m not afraid to tell the world I’ve got Parkinson’s. I can’t change what’s happened to me, but I can embrace it and live the best possible life I can.” He also spoke fondly of his wife Viv who he married back in 2014 saying, “She is my rock and keeps me on the straight and narrow but encourages me to do everything I possibly can. We make a great team.”

Matt’s attitude to life is astonishing. He talks about jumping out of a plane, abseiling from the top of town halls, photographing at the Olympics and at a Kaiser Chiefs’ gig and laughs off the idea of being an inspiration to others saying, “I don’t do things to inspire people, I do things because I want to. I set myself goals and work out ways to do them.” By speaking out, Matt is letting people know that having Parkinson’s can be normal and that they don’t have to stop enjoying life. He said, “I feel pain every day and at some point every day my legs don’t work so there will be stuff I can’t do, but I never forget I’m blessed and I try to live life as fully as I can.”

www.instagram.com/matteaglesphotography

Learn more about the #HealthcareHeroes at: www.healthcare-heroes.com

Prof. Paulo Edwardo Stanga – The man behind the world’s first bionic eye transplant

In July 2015, Professor Paulo Stanga conducted the world’s first implant of a bionic eye. The pioneering technology means that patients who are completely blind are able to see for the first time, using technology which sends wireless signals between the brain and an implant in the retina.

Professor Paulo Stanga conducted the world’s first bionic eye transplant in July 2015, marking the beginning of a new era for patients with sight loss.

Over its 200-year history, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital has been home to a wealth of pioneering individuals who’ve pushed the boundaries in eye care. One such individual is Professor Paulo Stanga, who carried out the world’s first implant of an artificial retina, popularly known as a ‘bionic eye’, in patients with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Professor Stanga is a Consultant Ophthalmologist and Vitreoretinal Surgeon at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. He has travelled the world and held jobs in some of the busiest cities, from Buenos Aires, to New York, London, Liverpool and now Manchester. We meet him at a room in the NIHR/Wellcome Trust Manchester Clinical Research Facility surrounded by a number of specialist retinal imaging devices and looked on by a number of printed eyes displayed on posters attached to the walls. Professor Stanga became interested in pioneering research early in his career, saying that he wanted, “To challenge established concepts and develop new ways of treating patients.” Those early days were busy and demanding. He spent the early ’90s in New York working for Professor Harvey Lincoff who was one of the most famous retinal surgeons of his time. Paulo was working long hours in the week and also at weekends. He smiled as he said, “I even had to bring my wedding forward and delay my honeymoon in order to hit a deadline two days after I was married. My wife still reminds me now that we haven’t had a honeymoon.”

After New York, Paulo worked in London and Liverpool before settling in Manchester in 2003. “The opportunity was brilliant, the role gave me a chance to set up a team around my research and push on with pioneering trials.” After introducing, amongst others, new imaging and retinal laser technologies as well as treatment techniques into clinical care, in 2008 Paulo started setting up trials with the bionic eye. He worked closely with a US company called Second Sight who produce the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System also known as the bionic eye. The initial trial focused on the implantation of the bionic eye for complete blindness in Retinitis Pigmentosa. He subsequently set up a pilot study of the bionic eye system in Dry AMD, one of the most common forms of severe loss of central vision, which affects 20-25 million people worldwide and 44,000 more people per year in the UK. The condition causes an impairment of the central vision resulting in people being unable to discriminate faces, read or drive. The world’s first surgery on a patient with this condition was completed by Paulo in 2015 on 80-year-old Mr Flynn, whose central vision had completely disappeared. The procedure involved attaching the implant within one of Mr Flynn’s eyes. This implant receives its visual information from a miniature camera mounted on glasses worn by the patient. The information is then transmitted wirelessly to a receiver that sits on the wall of the eye and from which the information is transferred to an array of electrodes that sits on the surface of the macula where they stimulate the remaining cells and replicate the patterns of light and darkness for the brain. The surgery was a huge success and less than two weeks later Mr Flynn was able to detect patterns of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines on a computer screen using the newly acquired central vision provided by the implant. Paulo said, “Over time Mr Flynn is learning to interpret these patterns of light and darkness and regain some central visual function.” The implant itself cannot provide any detailed vision but it can help patients to detect distinct patterns such as door frames and shapes without having to rely solely on their peripheral vision. Paulo praised all patients who are taking part in the trial.

“We are learning because of the courage and generosity of the patients taking part in this trial. At the moment there are only five patients in this trial but their involvement now means that in time we will be able to enrol others and this way help a lot more people. We are very excited and feel very positive about this trial. Our patients are the first ever human beings to experience the combination of their natural and residual with artificial vision. This successful integration of these two types of vision will hopefully pave the way for the treatment of many other causes of blindness”. Paulo told us that he still vividly remembers when one of the first patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa to be implanted in 2009 told him that, “Over Christmas he had seen fireworks for the first time in 30 years and also the glow of the Christmas lights, he could even make out his grandkids running towards him. These are the stories that drive us.”

These unique trials are only taking place through the Manchester Vision Regeneration (MVR) Lab at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and NIHR/Wellcome Trust Manchester Clinical Research Facility, as well as an independent Retinal Clinical-Research Fellowship Programme which Prof. Stanga set up in 2010 to contribute to this and other research. He said, “I couldn’t do any of this without the support of my team and the understanding of my family.” His fascination with the eye and his continued interest in how high end technology can help the medical industry allows Prof. Paulo Stanga to seek out solutions that haven’t been trialed or even thought of. He’s building a strong team and continues to treat patients with career defining surgery, improving the vision of many and in some cases restoring some visual function and helping patients to live more independently.

www.cmft.nhs.uk/royal-eye

Learn more about the #HealthcareHeroes at: www.healthcare-heroes.com

Generation Now – Round Table Event

When we started our journey into Generation Now I had no idea how much interest it would generate and how it would develop a life all of its own. Generation Now puts the millennial healthcare professional under the spotlight and never more so than at our most recent event – a round table meeting of key millennial healthcare professionals, at the Royal Society of Medicine.

We were delighted to be joined by some of the industry’s top healthcare entrepreneurs and millennials. Between them Dr Shafi Ahmed, Dr Stephanie Eltz and Dr Matt Jameson Evans represent some of the most innovative faces of healthcare in the twenty-first century. Dr Ahmed, consultant general and colorectal surgeon, is a leader in the use and development of augmented reality in clinical practice in areas such as sharing the latest surgical techniques through live streaming oncology operations[i]; Dr Eltz is a trauma and orthopaedic registrar and founder of Doctify – a platform-neutral online patient-doctor interface and Dr Jameson Evans, previously an orthopaedic surgeon, is the co-founder and chief medical officer of HealthUnlocked – an online community that is gaining a reputation for being the LinkedIn for patients with chronic conditions. We also had key leaders from the pharmaceutical industry and the ABPI.

The round table discussion was lively – as you’d expect with such big personalities in the room. Entrepreneurs by nature are generally outgoing and yes sometimes outspoken – but then the point of the evening was to try and discover what the millennial generation could expect from healthcare, and what we could all be doing to help it get there.

Big data came up and, not unexpectedly, but maybe not quite fairly, the NHS’s apparent struggle to cope with it. Perhaps the recent involvement in healthcare of big data big guns such as Google and Facebook can help it find its place in healthcare. ‘Wearables’ were also seen as one of the next big things. Continuous blood glucose monitors are already ‘a thing’ but imagine the possibilities for 24/7 monitoring of health predictors and the benefits that this could bring to people with other chronic conditions. And where do I even begin with the possibilities that virtual and augmented reality could bring?

We may all be used to viewing healthcare as an immovable object, but everyone in the room was in agreement that much of the technology, either under development or already available to support the millennial HCP, will disrupt this status quo. As an industry we have so much to offer the millennial HCP and help them become positive disruptors, that can take new technology into healthcare for the benefit of all of us. One thing is clear – the future is most definitely coming, and with it huge steps in our understanding of patients, diseases and treatment.

While there were far too many great points made throughout the course of this event to talk about here, there are a few key things that really stuck in my mind. It’s clear that we all need to increase collaboration to encourage the uptake of these innovative technologies.  We need to stop thinking we have to maintain the status quo – our entrepreneurial HCPs are delivering some amazing new approaches and, if we really embrace them, they have the potential to add enormous value to the way our healthcare system works. Probably the most important point though, was that while innovation should be welcomed, we must remember not to leave people behind. After all it is the millennial healthcare professionals and millennial patients that make our health service what it is; and what it will become.

Thank you to everyone who made this such an exciting and insightful debate.

Participants involved include:
Dr Shafi Ahmed, Consultant and Surgeon, and Co-founder of Medical Realities
Dr Stephanie Eltz, Founder of Doctify
David Hunt, CEO Havas Lynx
Dr Matt Jameson Evans, Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of HealthUnlocked
Dr Rebecca Lumsden, Head of Science Policy, ABPI
John McCarthy, Vice President, Global Commercial Excellence, AstraZeneca
Dr Claire Novorol, Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Ada, Founder and Chairman of Doctorpreneurs
Sarah Price, Senior Planner, Havas Lynx
Hiba Saleem, Partnerships Director of Doctorpreneurs and CO-founder of Medtech Student Network
Dominic Tyer, Editorial Director, PMGroup and Chair

The Generation Now Round Table event will be featured in the November edition of PME, available online from 8th November 2016.

[i] http://www.wired.co.uk/article/wired-health-virtual-reality-surgery-shafi-ahmed

client-round-table