Summary of the 2017 MedTech CoRE Conference

Written by Elf Eldridge

The 2017 MedTech CoRE Conference was held on 20th June, at the Aotea Centre, Auckland, during the HealthTech Week in conjunction with the Medical Technology Association of New Zealand (MTANZ). The Medical Technologies Centre of Research Excellence (MedTech CoRE) is the translational research platform for the Consortium for Medical Device Technologies (CMDT) with the aim of taking basic research into applications for economic growth and healthcare outcomes. In keeping with those aims, the theme of the 2017 conference was: “Translational Technologies: Between Benchtop and Bedside”.

Over 150 delegates from across research institutions, industry and clinical practice sectors attended the conference. The conference featured updates of nine highly successful CoRE seed projects, three plenary sessions, interspersed by engaging interactive sessions hosted by David Powell from Research and Enterprise at The University of Otago. Nine exhibitors ranging from research institutions to start-up companies demonstrated their work throughout the day. Dr Diana Siew from The University of Auckland provided the welcome address.

The first plenary, given by Ann-Marie Cavanagh from the Ministry of Health, outlined the goal for “All New Zealanders to live well, stay well and get well enabled by smart technology”. She also discussed many of the healthcare challenges that can be expected over the coming decades. A striking feature of her talk was a chart detailing the determinants of health and wellbeing, in particular highlighting that clinical interventions accounted for only roughly 10% of interventions towards healthier lives. A thought-provoking point was made regarding the need to avoid “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” focus in research and target potential avenues that may yield greater long-term benefits for the health of New Zealanders.

The second plenary session was given by the Director of the CoRE, Professor Peter Hunter, who charted the progress of the CoRE since its inception in 2015. Professor Hunter highlighted some of the outreach activities, the Doctoral Training Programme and the recent self-review to the Tertiary Education Committee as major milestones since the previous conference. He also encouraged the investigators to not rest on their laurels, but encouraged all attendees to improve engagement with the public, ministries and with DHBs. This was not only to improve the impact of research but also to create graduate employment opportunities necessary to grow the New Zealand medical device technologies sector.

The final plenary was given by Dr Peyvand Khaleghian from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, who spoke on the opportunities and challenges he observed in emerging healthcare markets. As with many countries, Dr Khaleghian stressed the importance of healthcare for rapidly aging populations in emerging economies, and the growing global market share that is expected to be captured by emerging economies over the next 25 years. He also noted several unique characteristics of these markets, noting the vast mobile uptake observed, and the openness to private solutions, as examples of particular interest. Dr Khaleghian concluded by characterising emerging markets as places where real change can be achieved in the way healthcare is delivered.

Six finalists competed for the HealthTech Award. The winner of the 2017 HealthTech Award was Formus Labs, presented by Dr Justin Fernandez from The University of Auckland. Their work involves designing implants for orthopaedic procedures, with sophisticated use of imaging data and population-based modelling techniques.

Nine early career researchers and students had a three-minute thesis-style competition for the CMDT Research Award. The winner of the 2017 CMDT Research Award was Gillian McCarthy from Victoria University, who addressed the important but seldom discussed social requirements of patients permanently linked to a medical device.

Dr Gavin Clark from The University of Otago provided some reflections of the day and Professor Merryn Tawhai, the Deputy Director of the CoRE, closed the conference. As we celebrate the foundation of an environment that effectively bridges technology, clinical practice, and commercialisation, we also look forward to more exciting work born from this foundation.

2017 Conference Organising Committee:

University of Auckland : Peng Du (Chair), Julie Choisne, Peng Guo, Nina Pettersson-Fox, Nicole Bassett, Natalie Solomona, Diana Siew, Jeanette Donnelly, Kate Harsant

Auckland University of Technology : Usman Rashid

Callaghan Innovation : Jyoti Chugh

Victoria University of Wellington : Edgar Rodriguez-Ramirez, Elf Eldridge, Mailin Lemke

University of Canterbury : Rebecca Soffe

University of Otago : Aamir Raja

A collage of photographs from the MedTechCORE conference 2017.