News posted 18 March, 2022

Prestigious national entrepreneurship scheme places awarded to three MFT staff members

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Three budding entrepreneurs within our Trust have been awarded places on the prestigious NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme.

The programme provides a package of learning that supports entrepreneurial thinking and innovation for a diverse range of clinical and non-clinical healthcare professionals.

The NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme is delivered by Anglia Ruskin University, and part of the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), which brings together industry, government, regulators, patients and the NHS to remove barriers and accelerate the introduction of new ground-breaking treatments and diagnostics which have the potential to transform care.

Now in its sixth year, the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme (CEP) has become the world’s largest entrepreneurial training programme within healthcare, helping to transform patient care across the NHS.

This year, more than 300 applications were submitted from staff across the NHS.

Following a rigorous and competitive application process, 170 individuals were shortlisted for the year-long programme. The three awardees from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) are:

  • Mr Kamran Khan, Consultant Vascular Surgeon, based at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI)
  • Lisa Miles, NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (MBRC) Operations Manager
  • Dr Richard Byers, Consultant Histopathologist at the MRI and Honorary Reader in Pathology at The University of Manchester

Dr Katherine Boylan, Head of Innovation at MFT, said: “Congratulations to our three MFT NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme awardees: Kamran, Lisa and Richard.

“The diverse nature of their innovation projects is testament to the entrepreneurial talent we have within our Trust, and I look forward to following their progress within the scheme during the next year.”

Mr Kamran Khan – 3D-printed medical device to potentially improve surgical outcomes for patients

In collaboration with his MRI colleagues and fellow Vascular Surgeon, Mr Ferdinand Serracino-Inglott, Mr Khan has been working on a 3D-printed medical device, which could improve surgical outcomes for patients with abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

AAA is a bulge or swelling in the aorta, the main blood vessel which runs from the heart, through the chest and tummy. If not spotted early enough, it can get bigger over time and eventually burst.

The new device is used for endovascular (inside the blood vessel) access in treating complex aortic aneurysms.

Mr Kamran Khan

Mr Khan said: “AAA is a potentially life-threatening condition if left untreated and is particularly common in men over 65. While men are invited for screening to detect the condition early, around 900 people in the UK undergo complex surgery to treat it each year.

“This novel device could potentially improve patient safety during surgery, reduce blood loss and therefore the time patients need to recover – as well as reducing the number and cost of extra blood transfusions needed.”

Following inception of the initial idea, MFT’s Innovation Team and product designers, Lucid Group, supported further development of the device. It then went on to receive early-stage funding from Manchester’s Oxford Road Corridor innovation district for further design and testing.

A prototype 3D device was then manufactured and showed promising results in early lab testing. The next step is to 3D-print this in a suitable material (biocompatible polymer), to be tested within first-in-man trials.

Mr Khan added: “I hope that being part of the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme will equip me with the skills of entrepreneurship and empower me to understand the pathways in developing and commercialising medical devices.

“This project is close to my heart and I’m willing to dedicate all my efforts towards ensuring it succeed. The ultimate beneficiaries will be my patients, as well as my colleagues, as I will encourage a culture of innovation in my workplace.”

Lisa Miles – tube-feeding meals to empower those using, or wishing to transition to, a blended diet

‘Wilbo’s Blends’ is a collaboration between Lisa Miles and three fellow co-founders, all of whom have lived experience as parent/carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), with two having first-hand experience of administering enteral (tube) feeds.

Lisa Miles

‘Wilbo’ is an affectionate name for William, a child of two of the co-founders, who is tube-fed and follows a Blended Diet. This lived experience of the benefits of this approach – as an alternative to commercial formula-feeds – led to the co-founders’ mission: commitment to creating 100 per cent real food meals for the Blended Diet community. As a result, providing natural goodness, variety and convenience.

The blended tube-feeding meals are designed to be nutritionally rich and avoid all major allergens. Each meal comes in a flexible pouch (shown right) and have a shelf life of more than one year.

Lisa said: “We know there are significant physical and social benefits for children and adults with a feeding tube to be on real food, and we want to support people to make the transition.

“Currently, there are no Blended Diet products available in the UK, and the only option is commercial medicalised formula or ‘do it yourself’ home-blending. There is a significant number of people already on the Blended Diet, but they experience barriers such as expensive blending equipment, blending time and limited information and support.

“In addition, people following a Blended Diet find it hard to access it within a school, hospital or respite setting, as home-blended food does not meet risk-assessment criteria, such as food preparation and hygiene requirements. We therefore hope that our pouches will eventually bridge that gap and improve equity of access to Blended Diet across a range of settings.”

Lisa and her partners plan to launch their business through the commercial route, beginning with two meals initially, before expanding to six. Their ultimate aim is for the product to be procured by and rolled-out across the NHS.

Lisa added: “Having worked in clinical research for more than 15 years, I have always been driven by the positive impact of innovation.

“The teams I work in, despite varying clinical specialities, have always asked academic questions within healthcare, with the collective ambition to improve outcomes for all. This ambition motivates me every day to play my part in the fantastic research infrastructure we are lucky to have here in Manchester.

“But while I understand clinical research, I have less knowledge on the pathway to adoption of products, and so I am hopeful the programme will offer opportunities to develop my understanding.

“Ultimately, a key aspect of the Programme for me is the mentorship and peer-to-peer support it will provide, which I’m really looking forward to experiencing and then sharing with my own teams. I am really keen to listen, learn and grow, and this new challenge will add to my knowledge and skills base, benefitting not only this project, but also my role within MFT.”

Dr Richard Byers – Artificial Intelligence (AI) diagnostic tool to detect and categorise lymphoma

Lymphoma and leukaemia are two forms of cancer. Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the lymph glands or other organs of the lymphatic system. Leukaemia, and its related conditions of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), form a group of rare blood cancers in people who produce abnormal, non-functional blood cells – resulting in not enough healthy blood cells.

Dr Richard Byers

Their accurate diagnosis is heavily dependent on identification and counting of the percentage of malignant blast cells in the bone marrow, which is often difficult and, to a degree, subjective. Blast cells are abnormal immature white blood cells, which can multiply and prevent the production of other cells.

Dr Byers aims to develop AI digital pathology algorithms to both accurately identify malignant blast cells in bone marrow trephine biopsies (a type of bone marrow test), as well as automate the categorisation of lymph node biopsies into three categories: reactive, high-grade lymphoma, or low-grade lymphoma.

These algorithms are being developed with colleagues through ‘Spotlight Pathology’, a University of Manchester spinout company.

Dr Byers said: “Presently, identification of blasts in bone marrow biopsy samples is difficult, time-consuming and has an element of subjectivity.

“I believe that my proposed AI approach will enable rapid, standardised and automated counting of blasts in bone marrow trephine samples, which is core to the clinical management of conditions such as leukaemia and myelodysplasia. For both of these conditions, accurate blast percentages are key for determining disease sub-type and response to treatment and, as such, are essential for optimal management.

“I am strongly committed to improving cancer patient outcomes, which I sincerely hope this innovation will play a role in.”

Spotlight Pathology has had initial intention of support from a leading provider of digital pathology systems, as well as support from all major specialist haematopathology laboratories in the north of England.

The next step will be development of AI algorithms for identification of blasts and for triage of lymph node samples. These will then be tested and rolled out for initial use and validation to colleagues in the northern haemapathology community.

Dr Byers added: “I have a passion for developing novel diagnostic methods and, for the past 15 years, have been involved in developing novel research methods for analysis of biomarkers, with benefits for understanding the biology of cancer.

“I am pleased to be part of the CEP as I wish to benefit from commercial and NHS implementation support from the mentorship programme. I have recently retired from full time work to concentrate my time on this innovation project, and hope also to bring my expertise and experience to the Programme.”