Working in partnership with industry to bring health benefits to the South West

  • June 27th 2023

Our new BRC represents an opportunity to leverage existing relationships with industry and develop new ones to benefit experimental medicine and translational research.

Working across our partnership between the Royal Devon and the University of Exeter we aim to improve medical devices, evaluate and develop new biomarkers and find new drugs for the benefit of the people in the South West. And we’re actively engaging people in research like clinical trials to help make sure that our communities’ healthcare needs are understood, represented and met.

We are working to make sure that colleagues are fully equipped and engaged with this process through innovative ways of working such as Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, Innovation Scouts and Professors in Practice. Colleagues’ networks with industry will help us to develop a team of clinical and biomedical researchers who are focused on benefits for patients through deepening relationships with industry.

Professor Seb Brown is a new Professor in Practice. He is working with us to help bring medical technologies out of the lab and into treatment centres, supporting the transfer of technology to commerce.

We caught up with Seb to find out how he’s settling in and what he hopes to bring to the BRC in his new role.

BRC: Hello Seb, welcome to the BRC! Tell us about how you came to your new role and how you see it?

SB: My background is as a medical doctor in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care. I invented a method of recycling anaesthetic gases and stepped out of medicine to develop the technology, which is now available on the commercial market. I went on to work for the government on ventilators for the UK ventilator challenge and now I run a company developing a new form of ventilator and anaesthesia device. I use this experience to work with the BRC theme leads to provide support in technology transfer and commercialisation. 

My new role is very varied and focuses around the needs of the theme leads to make the biggest impact from their work, be that helping technologies develop from the laboratory to patients or generating a service offering that can be used across multiple technologies. A chief priority is to meet BRC researchers and help them apply commercial practice to support grant applications, prototype technologies to spin out companies, whatever is needed.

BRC: Is there anything specific you’d like to achieve?

SB: Of course, I’d like to benefit patients and work with ground-breaking research.  But first, I would like to help the team in the early stages of the BRC to set up and deliver the necessary outcomes. This means the valuable research that is done here is recognised and rewarded and that the BRC continues in Exeter for the long-term. Patient benefit and major leaps will come as a result but may come from the most unexpected of places or take time and so it’s important to work across the BRC and support it as a whole.

BRC: How do you think your work at the BRC could contribute to the research and local communities?

SB: I really enjoyed working as a doctor in Anaesthesia and ICU.  I was lucky to be trained by inspiring and highly intelligent people.  Academics and medical teams work in this environment every day, so much so that it’s normalised.  It’s exciting to work with these teams from a different angle to develop on outstanding knowledge and skills and turn it into something that people can see or touch, to give value to the patient but also to show the team behind it just how good they are.

Commercialisation and technology transfer aren’t just for blockbuster ‘commercial technologies’.  Revenues come from delivering something of value to patients, from saving their life to helping them manage chronic illness day-to-day.  There is a lot of good practice in commercial work that focuses on understanding what the patient/clinician needs at an early stage.  I think this ethos is important in academic research too – it doesn’t have to be the main focus of deep technology research, but an understanding of how technology can be applied, existing regulatory requirements, and how the patient may benefit, should work hand-in-glove as scientific research is developed. 

BRC: What do you think are the future opportunities?

SB: I believe that the South West needs a strong life science sector and the BRC is an important opportunity for us to grasp.  A strong link between industry, academia and the NHS can help make the South West a rewarding place to learn, work and deliver something of value to the UK and society at large. I think it’s great that the University leadership brought the BRC to Exeter and am keen to support that vision for the long term. My work outside the BRC is no different, just working from the industrial angle rather than from academia.  We work with Exeter and other local Universities to be part of a developing ecosystem that can achieve more than we can alone.

BRC: Would you recommend a clinical or research career?

SB: I don’t really do recommendations, there’s too much uncertainty!  But both clinicians and researchers are desperately needed in society.  We need a healthy population and research drives real growth in the economy and improves the standard of living for everyone. 

BRC: Is there anything special that you’ve discovered about working in the South West?

SB: After my wife and I finished medical school in Oxford, we came to Torbay hospital because they had a speedboat and went wakeboarding on a Thursday!

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