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Medical device wins Otago University lecturer $50,000 prize

Medical device wins Otago University lecturer $50,000 prize

Innovative new medical device aims to minimise surgery complications

Dunedin, 22 August, 2012 – University of Otago lecturer Dr Greg Walker has won a $50,000 prize for an innovative new medical device that aims to minimise surgery complications. Dr Walker from the School of Pharmacy was awarded the 2012 winner of the annual Proof of Concept Grant competition run by the University of Otago's commercialisation arm, Otago Innovation Limited.

The medical device was awarded for its potential to enhance the wound healing process resulting from surgical manipulation, which is a major cause of post-surgery complications. The device aims to minimise post-surgery complications by reducing the inflammatory response of a blood vessel to injury during surgery, a condition known as intimal hyperplasia. The development is significant as vessel injury is an important reason for vascular surgeries such as bypass grafts failing and can lead to a range of other surgery problems.

Dr Greg Walker, an expert in drug delivery and formulation, says, “This is a real highlight early in my academic career. I’m very passionate about developing cheaper medical devices that more people get to benefit from. I’ll be able to use the win to accelerate the development of this new device.”

Dr Walker says the idea for the device was born when he was asked by the University’s Department of Surgery to lend his expertise in an attempt to minimize complications arising from post-surgical events.

The 6th annual Proof of Concept competition was designed by Otago Innovation, whose role is to commercialise aspects of Intellectual Property arising from research discoveries within the University, to encourage researchers to think about the possible commercial applications of their research. Entrants were encouraged to detail what an end product or service may look like, and who would buy it. The winner was selected by a panel of industry experts.

Colin Dawson, Chief Executive of Otago Innovation says, “We’ve uncovered a wealth of fantastic research ideas and innovations that could have great commercial application. We were particularly impressed by Dr Walker’s idea as it has the ability to tackle a major surgical problem. It’s also an innovation that could scale easily and be developed cost effectively.”

He says New Zealand is an untapped source of leading medical research and biotechnology innovation with the highest rate of publications per research dollar spent in the world.

Otago Innovation will work with Dr Walker to provide additional resources to assist with the commercialisation including advice on the IP position and considerations around the potential path to market. Proof of concept trials and experimental surgical models are the first step with patent protection also a key milestone.

Dr Walker gained his PhD from the School of Pharmacy at Otago University in 1999 and worked in a range of academic institutes and companies in Austria, Germany and the UK before returning in January this year to take up a lecturer position in the School of Pharmacy. His most recent position prior to his return was R&D Manager at a medical device start-up company in the UK.

Dr Walker says the win validates his decision to gain industry experience after graduating before going back into academia. “I really feel like I have the best of both worlds as I have the academic freedom to investigate and develop my own ideas and I can fulfill my passion to develop cheaper medical devices for the market.” partners.”

About Otago Innovation
A wholly–owned subsidiary of the University of Otago, Otago Innovation Limited is charged with exclusive responsibility for the commercialisation of Intellectual Property arising from research within the University.


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