UWE expert wins funding for research into personalised medicines

Issue date: 28 January 2015

Dr Wendy Phillips from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is part of a new link-up between academia and industry to improve the efficiency of healthcare product manufacturing.

The project won £465,000 funding from the Engineering and Physical Services Research Council (EPSRC) to research Re-Distributed Manufacturing (RDM) in Healthcare. The project is being led by Dr Phillips, together with Professor Nick Medcalf from Loughborough University.

During the two year project, a multi-disciplinary team including researchers from Nottingham, Cambridge, Brunel and Newcastle Universities and Health Technology consultancy, Lime Associates, will address the key challenges and opportunities relating to RDM in healthcare. The researchers will support feasibility studies, interact with other RDM networks and communicate with stakeholders and the community.

Dr Phillips, from UWE's Bristol Business School said, “RDM is defined as technology, systems and strategies that change the economics and organisation of manufacturing, particularly in relation to location and scale.

“RDM may change the delivery of healthcare products and enhance national competitiveness, but there are key challenges to realising these benefits in terms of regulatory affairs, training, quality assurance and customer-supplier relationships.

“The Re-Distributed Manufacturing in Healthcare Network (RiHN) comprises a multi-disciplinary network including academic institutes, research centres, the NHS and industry representatives that will provide a forum to define the challenges of realising RDM in healthcare.”

Dr Phillips has spent over 10 years advancing the disciplines of innovation studies and supply chain management. Her research impacts policy and practice in procurement in complex public sector supply networks such as the NHS, the Welsh NHS, and UK Higher Education Institutions. As the RiHN Network Director, Dr Phillips will be working towards supporting a multidisciplinary, multi-perspective debate on the potential RDM in healthcare industries and organisations, and to define a research agenda that will overcome the challenges and issues preventing its realisation.

Dr Phillips continued, “If successful, RDM has the potential to improve citizen wellbeing with products such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, biopharmaceuticals and regenerative medical products such as cell- and tissue-based therapies. There are potentially clinical, social and economic advantages if healthcare products could be prescribed, customised and manufactured within a single visit to the clinic or administered in the home, reducing the need to travel and undertake repeat visits. For example, it is of particular value to apply RDM to orthoses and prostheses for children, whose rapid growth and change often demands frequent revisions and alterations to devices.

“Personalised medicine is estimated to grow to a £1.5 billion industry by 2018. The ability to provide devices supporting rapid diagnosis that allow for the best therapy for an individual patient to be rapidly determined will be a key part of the growth. RDM could underpin this, enabling the provision of tailored, right-first-time treatments to all patients and it is imperative that a single vision of the research is created to position the UK at the forefront of healthcare manufacturing.”

Dr Steve Langron, a RiHN industrial partner and Supply Chain Director for health technology consultancy Lime Associates, said, “This is a very exciting project that reflects the economic importance of healthcare in the UK.

“The NHS serves over 64 million people in the UK and has an estimated turnover of £121bn, so even marginal advances in technology can have a big impact.”

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