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UK setting up £18M healthcare photonics center

04 Feb 2015

Open-access facility set to be hosted by the Centre for Process Innovation now seeking private-sector backers.

The UK is to create a new National Centre for Healthcare Photonics in the north-east of the country, following the allocation of a £10 million government grant.

Due to open in January 2017, the facility will be built at NETPark in County Durham, site of the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI). The government money is part of the expansion of the "North East Growth Deal" announced by the UK government last week.

The CPI told optics.org that the center would follow the open-access model already employed by existing NETPark facilities, for example at the National Centre for Printable Electronics. That helps small companies and university start-ups access expensive equipment, and also lowers the risk of trialing new technologies for larger and more established companies.

The full budget for the project is £18 million, and the CPI – part of the UK’s high-value manufacturing “Catapult” network - is now setting about raising the remaining £8 million from industrial partners and other competitive grants.

It said: “CPI will establish and manage the [healthcare photonics center], where clinicians and medical specialists will collaborate with experts in photonics, biochemistry, and engineering to create a new generation of diagnostics and treatments.”

The center will have facilities designed to support the transition of laboratory prototypes to pilot-scale production of devices at the required quality and consistency to enter early and late-stage clinical trials. “A key focus area will be around health economics and regulatory aspects, which are critical in bringing these new products to market,” the CPI added.

Sleep masks for diabetic retinopathy
The local region is already home to the company PolyPhotonix, which is developing a mask based on organic LEDs to help treat the sight-threatening condition diabetic retinopathy. The technology, designed to deliver light through a patient’s closed eyelids during sleep, is said to prevent damage caused by a lack of oxygen that leads to abnormal blood vessel growth.

Believed to have the potential to save millions in healthcare spending by offering a low-cost alternative to much more expensive and invasive treatment options, the PolyPhotonix masks are currently the subject of a UK-wide clinical trial on 300 patients managed by London’s renowned Moorfields Eye Hospital.

The company’s CEO, former artist Richard Kirk, said in a CPI statement: “We are delighted that the National Centre for Healthcare Photonics is to be located here in the North East of England. [It] will assist PolyPhotonix with continued research into treatments for devastating diseases such as macular eye degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, improving the quality of life for patients whilst reducing costs of national care systems around the world.”

CPI chief Nigel Perry added: “This is an exciting area for CPI and solidifies our plans to address key areas within the healthcare sector.” He says that the new center will provide both large and small companies with open access facilities to prototype and scale up their research ideas, reducing the risks of product and process development.

AlluxaMad City Labs, Inc.Iridian Spectral TechnologiesUniverse Kogaku America Inc.Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationHÜBNER PhotonicsSPECTROGON AB
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