Ohmedics, a spin-out company from Strathclyde University proves that with the right ambition and support, size needn't be an obstacle to international trade. Discover how it found partners in Qatar eager to pilot their advanced medical diagnostic systems.
Companies both large and small can seize opportunities in fast-growing markets. Ohmedics Ltd, a spin-out company from Strathclyde University is doing just that – finding routes to market through Middle East domestic and regional investment in life sciences and health.
Getting products to market
Ohmedics found partners in Qatar eager to pilot the firm’s advanced medical diagnostic systems that are easy to use at home or in the clinic and can be integrated into telehealth services for clinical providers.
Ohmedics’ patented WoundSenseTM product is a single-use, sterile, disposable, moisture sensor. It is placed on a wound when dressings are changed and senses moisture using a small, hand-held meter with an easy to read scale showing if the wound is wet, wet to moist, moist, moist to dry, or dry.
So without disturbing the dressing, clinicians can decide when to change it, what dressing to use or if the wound needs extra moisture. WoundSenseTM is aimed at chronic and acute wounds and can be used in hospitals, community clinics and at home.
Encouraged by Scottish Development International to join the Scottish stand at the Arab Health in Dubai in 2010, Ohmedics has attended the largest and most prestigious medical trade fair in the Middle East every year since.
“It has shown us that there is a lot of interest regionally in new medical technologies, even though it’s not easy anywhere in the world to change existing clinical practice and protocols,” said Patricia Connolly, Professor of Bomedical Engineering at Strathclyde University.
Patricia is the founder/CEO of Ohmedics, the commercialisation vehicle for a number of sensor technologies being developed at Strathclyde.
At a subsequent conference in Glasgow, Patricia later met Dr Ihab Seoudi, a research counterpart at Qatar’s Hamad Medical Corporation, who was interested in researching and applying medical diagnostics in hospital and at home.
Together, they were awarded a joint grant by the Qatar National Research Fund to conduct research in Qatar into advanced sensors for woundcare.
“It paved the way for us to bring in our woundcare sensor dressings and to appoint Gentech Ltd as our distributor in Qatar for our products,” Patricia said.
The relationship with Qatar based Gentech, a long established and well-connected distributor, developed from an introduction at Arab Health to Gentech owner Ken Afghani, who has worked in the past with Ohmedics' Sales Director.
Making the right connections
While the research with Hamad is at the clinical stage, Ohmedics also works with Dr Hanadi Alhamad, a consultant geriatrician at a Hamad managed hospital, who is interested in how the Scottish firm’s products may work in the community and with Dr Talal Khader Talal, Head of Podiatric Services who has interests in wound healing and moisture in diabetic foot patients.
Patricia said. “Qatar has healthcare needs across a wide spectrum, among its nationals and the many expatriates that make up a high proportion of the population in places,” she observed.
“It’s also very go-ahead about building research capacity and embedding new medical technologies and capacity. Because we are poised to deliver woundcare in the clinic and at home, we feel that we can really get somewhere in the Qatar market through working with our local research and distribution partners.”
In telehealthcare use, Ohmedics is also licensed to work in the Middle East with NHS Florence (‘Flo’), a National Health Service system through which patients receive regular mobile phone text messages at home to remind them to monitor conditions of concern.
"For example, Flo can prompt people to take a glucose reading with their blood kits and text the reading back to receive a message advising on what course of action they should take, if any,” Patricia explained.
“The Middle East is showing a lot of interest in being ahead of the game in the digital health economy – it is part of a strategy to deliver telehealth starting with pilot projects then moving out into communities.”
"There are long travel times for some people there, and cultural differences mean families may well prefer to care for relatives at home.”
Beyond Qatar, the Dubai government is pursuing a strategy to enable its citizens to handle all interactions with government via mobile telephony by 2020.
“It will involve online video linking including for healthcare,” Patricia said. “We feel that smartphones, tablets and mobile phones coupled to quite simple medical tests will make a lot of difference to monitoring chronic medical conditions in the community. Early release from hospital followed by light monitoring in the community in this way could save health services a lot of money."
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