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University of Oxford researchers have been awarded £1.24 million to lead a medical diagnostics co-operative that will drive forward the development, evaluation and uptake of new medical diagnostic technologies to improve outcomes for patients in the community.

Ps1 24 million for new medical diagnostics hub Shutterstock
The NIHR Community Healthcare MIC will support the development of new diagnostic technology that meets real clinical need in community settings.
The NIHR Community Healthcare MIC will put patient benefit in the driving seat to ensure that new diagnostic and monitoring technologies successfully transform community healthcare."
- Dr Gail Hayward, MIC Deputy Director.

Funded for five years by the National Institute for Health Research, the NIHR Community Healthcare MedTech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operative (MIC) will partner with commercial medical technology developers to ensure new concepts are rigorously evaluated, applicable in the NHS and have far-reaching clinical benefit.

It is one of 11 newly funded NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostic cooperatives announced last week by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to coincide with the publication of the Life Science Industrial Strategy.

Hosted by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, the NIHR Community Healthcare MIC will bring together and synergise experienced health researchers, end users, and clinical experts skilled in the development and evaluation of diagnostic tests.

By focusing on key NHS priorities, the new initiative aims to speed up the development, evaluation, and deployment of diagnostic tests that support healthcare professionals to make better decisions for their patients in areas such as antibiotic prescribing, child health and chronic illness. The focus will be on home and community care, including GP surgeries, acute medical centre, out-of-hours care and home visits.

NIHR Community Healthcare MIC Clinical Director, Professor Chris Butler, who is Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said: “90% of NHS patient contacts occur in community settings like GP surgeries and pharmacies, often without timely access to diagnostic tests which can delay diagnosis and treatment.

“Diagnostic innovations can be miracles of technological innovation, yet frequently are poorly positioned in the complexity of clinical care, and sadly, all too often, inadequately evaluated. Evaluation is often limited to questions of test accuracy, rather than finding out whether the diagnostic actually improves outcomes for patients, or are worth the costs involved. The Community Healthcare MIC will facilitate designing and planning of timely, rigorous and appropriate diagnostics development, evaluation, and, where beneficial, their uptake into everyday care.”

Dr Gail Hayward, the MIC’s Deputy Director said, “By brokering links between medical technology companies and NHS settings to evaluate devices during their development stage, the NIHR Community Healthcare MIC will put patient benefit in the driving seat to ensure that new diagnostic and monitoring technologies successfully transform community healthcare before they are rolled out into routine care.”

The initiative builds on the work of the NIHR Diagnostic Evidence Co-operative Oxford, which has evaluated point-of-care in vitro diagnostics since 2013 and coordinates the annual UK Diagnostics Forum.

Dr Mark Hancock, Oxford Health’s Medical Director, said: “I am delighted we have been successful in our bid to host a new MIC, which will build on the achievements of the existing DEC. The MIC’s ambition to develop better point-of-care diagnostics is strongly aligned to the Trust’s strategic objective to provide care in the community and to improve outcomes for patients.”

The philosophy of the MIC will be to support the development of new diagnostic technology that meets real clinical need in community settings.

"The utility of robust, simple point-of-care technologies to help early pathway diagnosis and monitoring is clear,” said Conor O’Brien, CEO at the Netherlands-based healthcare company FABPulous, who will act as the NIHR Community Healthcare MIC’s diagnostic industry representative. “However, the translation of technology into suitably rapid and clinically useful tools requires all-stage co-ordination between industry, research, and clinical practice. The NIHR Community Healthcare MIC will make possible the market-led development of convenient and effective diagnostic tools to help clinical decision making, patient experience and operational efficiency."

The NIHR Community Healthcare MIC will officially open for business from 1 January 2018.

For more information and to discuss partnering opportunities, contact Philip Turner.

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