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SPARK Co-Lab Design team, NIMo, have been on the innovation fast track this year with their wearable device for the self-management of irritable bowel disease (or Non-Invasive Monitoring). The team took home prizes from Ernst & Young, Wrays, CERI, AmCham, the Australia Israeli Chamber of Commerce, and regulatory expert Anthea Downs, when they took the top prize at the SPARK Co-Lab Design final pitch night in November. Three weeks later they have gone on to win the Innovation Central award at the West Tech Fest Startup Challenge.

It’s hard to believe the NIMo team only met for the first time in May 2017, when the SPARK Co-Lab Design course first kicked off. Bringing together researchers, engineers, clinicians and business professionals, the Design course places participants in a clinical setting where they observe unmet needs of patients, doctors and clinical staff. Multidisciplinary teams are then formed to deep-dive into these unmet needs and solve them, all while learning the process of innovation and commercialization. Over six months the teams learn about disease state, stakeholder analysis, intellectual property, prototyping, regulatory affairs, quality control, reimbursement strategy, derisking, and build an operational plan and a financial model, all before they pitched to course mentors, biotech CEOs, stakeholders and investors at the final pitch night in November.

For NIMo, the key to standing out at the pitch night was their passion for the patients combined with an astute business case. The team showed that they were action orientated and highly capable by wowing the judges and audience with a working prototype. Team member Dr Amy Finlay-Jones, who spends the majority of her time researching Foetal Alcohol Syndrome at Telethon Kids Institute and running workshops on self-compassion, is an IBD patient herself.

“In our case, my experience having a chronic illness helped us to understand this particular problem from the patient’s perspective. Balanced with clinical, technical, and commercial insights, this helped steer us towards a solution that we believe reflects empathy for the patient and addresses the need in an innovative, effective, and efficient way.”

NIMo’s team clinician Marthe Smith, said the SPARK Co-Lab Design course provides an excellent resource for clinicians who may already have ideas for clinical solutions but need to learn the innovation pathway first.

“The Spark Co-Lab course provides a fantastic opportunity for clinicians to learn how to identify needs and to develop solutions for gaps in clinical practice or patient needs. Clinicians who have already identified potential solutions to problems can take the skills learned in the course to develop and commercialise the ideas they have. Working as part of a multidisciplinary team with other people with non-medical backgrounds is very rewarding. I can certainly recommend this course to any clinician with an interest in learning about innovation in the health field.”

Other inventions showcased at the SPARK Co-Lab Design pitch night included the other prize winner, Biacor Pty Ltd with a technology for diagnosing early stage infections in orthopedic implants, Giffy Tech with a technology to reduce inadequate bowel preparation to avoid repeat colonoscopies and missed diagnosis, Salutem Analytics with a proprietary algorithm to use standard medical scanning technology for the early detection of deep tissue pressure wounds, Kinisi Labs with their diagnostic device for developmental coordination disorder, and MoveMii with a wearable device to optimise rehabilitation after total knee replacement.

The SPARK Co-Lab Design course was funded in 2017 by Accelerating Australia, a consortium of 21 life sciences organisations who are aiming to boost entrepreneurship and innovation, and promote collaboration amongst researchers, engineers, clinicians and business people through engaging courses and material. Accelerating Australia is in turn supported by funding from MTPConnect, matched dollar-for-dollar by the sector. Having recently received a commitment for $1 million from MTPConnect in October, the consortium will be rolling out the Design course nationally in 2018, beginning in Adelaide.

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