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Wellington’s strength in biomedical innovation recognised

Wellington’s strength in biomedical innovation recognised

Grow Wellington today announces that the Lead Innovation of the 2012 Innovating for Health Challenge is Dr. Kathryn McGrath, the Director of the MacDiarmid Institute, and her Research Assistant Natasha Munro, with her submission on hard tissue implant technologies.

The Innovating for Health Challenge was developed by Grow Wellington in recognition of, and to enhance, the commercial capability of Wellington region’s research and development community in the high-value biomedical sector.

Adrian Gregory, GM of Science and Technology at Grow Wellington says, “Wellington has the highest level of research scientists per capita in New Zealand, which gives us enormous potential for developing world-class medical solutions for multi-billion dollar global markets.”

The Innovating for Health Challenge identified commercially viable research-based clinical innovations for the healthcare market. The Challenge also connected researchers and clinicians with entrepreneurs and sources of funding to help grow new businesses in the biomedical sector.

Strong Wellington innovation community

The strength of the Wellington innovation community was evident in the high calibre of responses that were received.
Forty submissions were received in the first stage of the Challenge covering all the relevant categories from research-based ideas with the potential for practical applications in healthcare, to prototypes, pilot stage innovations, innovations at first or second stage research & development, business plans, and innovations that may already have been generating revenue.

The second stage of the Challenge provided additional support to those who submitted proposals, enabling them to develop these submissions into a robust business plan, which lead to Grow Wellington identifying six ‘Leading Innovations’.

Mr Gregory says, “The Leading Innovations were assessed by a panel of experts – from the biotech industry, Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, health services research, and an industry entrepreneur and investor. The submissions and their plans were evaluated on both the depth of the science and their commercial potential. On the basis of these evaluations Dr McGrath’s work was identified as the Health Challenge’s Lead Innovation.”

A world-Class Lead Innovation

Dr McGrath's submission focused on the development of non-toxic composite materials - using hydrogel technologies - that mimic the body's own hard tissue materials. A successful development of this solution will lead to new breakthroughs in hard tissue implants - for example bone grafts - with a drastic reduction in rejection rates, increased mechanical compatibility, and longer lifespan.

Dr McGrath's submission has been awarded $50,000 of development funding, which will be used to develop the first product – an extrudable cattle cement for veterinary dental implants.

This will act as a proof of concept for extension into the wider veterinary, and human, dental care. Three key aspects of the product will be targeted: prototyping of the injectable material; biological compatibility of the materials; and mechanical robustness and material response.

Leading Innovations for the future

Mr Gregory says, “The other five submissions showed great potential for future development and were recognised by the panel as Leading Innovations, included:
Fibre Light – a device for the remote measuring of radiation doses
Fonim - allowing users to communicate phonetically using a mobile device
Therapeutic Hard Contact Lens - customised hard contact lens solutions to correct keratanocus
Morfit - in-vehicle lumbar support device to reduce lower back pain
Shield shattering anti-microbials against recalcitrant bacterias”

The Innovation for Health Challenge has been a valuable experience for both those who made submissions and the broader biomedical sector in the Wellington region.

Mr Gregory says “The Challenge has raised the awareness of Wellington's strength in the biomedical sector, and created new networks between science and business.

Grow Wellington thanks all those that participated in the Challenge. The submissions with the greatest commercial potential - along with the underpinning science - will receive on-going support to help realise that potential.”

Grow Wellington will help facilitate a number of support options including the opportunity to meet and present to the Wellington Innovation and Investment Community, assistance in getting their plans investment ready, support from business leaders and experts in particular fields, consideration for inclusion in the incubator and entrepreneur kick-start programmes.



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