SUPPORTING NHS INNOVATORS: PROFESSOR MONICA SPITERI
Research to “Real-World”
The first thing Professor Monica Spiteri says to us is: “Only yesterday, MidTECH were helping me again.”
She’s referring to a commercialisation process she is currently undertaking, and the CE certification stages MidTECH are helping her through. A researcher with a specialism in respiratory medicine, Professor Spiteri focuses on developing point-of-care medical devices – and MidTECH have come to be an invaluable part of how she approaches taking them to market.
“It takes five to seven years to see a device from initial concept through to full commercialisation,” she explains. “Throughout that period we’ve made extensive use of MidTECH to understand the legal, commercial vocabularies and systems we’ve had to navigate.”
Professor Spiteri is a consultant in respiratory physician and the Director of Lung Research at University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) and Keele University. She has established an international track record and is a named inventor on respiratory diagnostic patents in the fields of COPD and Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Her current research focus is on development of patient-driven point-of-care diagnostics to improve self-management and remote monitoring in respiratory disease, and she has worked with MidTECH since its inception.
Intellectual Property and Patents
“A decade ago, those of us working in hospitals would secure intellectual property rights to our ideas through IP offices within universities,” Professor Spiteri recalls. “Inevitably that meant that the IP became diluted from the point of view of the NHS Trusts. When MidTECH was set-up, all this changed.”
Intellectual property advice was the first service Professor Spiteri received from MidTECH, which first helped her secure rights to the fruits of her research in that early period – and has continued to do so ever since. “Of course the interaction has changed over the years,” she says, “because institutions and funding pots come and go; but MidTECH has always been on hand to whenever needed.
“MidTECH also helps provide direct contact with patent attorneys, and offer advice throughout: very often I’ll need help understanding the legal jargon, since that is not my area.”
Sustaining and maintaining IP is no easy task, and Monica has benefited consistently from MidTECH’s expertise in this area. “They are the experts here,” she says, “and their knowledge is a hugely valuable resource to draw on.”
It isn’t just IP and patents, however, where MidTECH have provided support. In the area of commercialisation, too, the organisation has added significant value.
“MidTECH staff monitor the documentation and regulations which are always being produced across the healthcare sector,” says Professor Spiteri. “This means it is a great point of contact for the latest intelligence about who is doing what – and which regulators require which compliances.”
Commercial exploitation can be a tricky business, and being able to access this expertise gives Professor Spiteri a certain confidence when approaching potential commercial partners. Finding the right fit for a given device can be crucial to ultimate success in the market – and understanding the landscape can be the difference between finding the perfect and imperfect partner.
“MidTECH help buddy us up with companies which have expertise in our area – but also have the skills and capacities to make a success of the product we’ve developed.”
It’s not just introductions that MidTECH provide, either: “Their consultants attend meetings with us,” Professor Spiteri adds, “and it’s very nice to have someone with that sort of background in the room when meeting with commercial bodies.”
In short, MidTECH provides a research like Professor Spiteri with a full “back-office” service that simplifies and streamlines the commercialisation process. “From finding the right partners to protecting our rights to the idea,” she says.
“MidTECH have helped take a project I’ve been working on for eight years to final fruition in 2017.”