HOSPITAL consultant Matthew Rooney has invented a simple device which can help doctors to check patients for anaemia.
With the help of Heath Tech, Dr Rooney, an anaesthetist with the Heart of England Foundation Trust in Birmingham, is now ready to market his product to the NHS.
But it has been a case of blood, sweat and tears for Dr Rooney, who has been working on his invention for 11 years. After initial difficulty in licensing the device he turned to Health Tech, who were able to give him the support he needed to progress with confidence.
Dr Rooney's portable, disposable device consists of a wedge-shaped chamber which enables health professionals to measure quickly a patient's level of haemoglobin - the protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. This measurement is of particular value when someone is having surgery or is a victim of trauma.
A sample of blood is mixed with a saline solution in the chamber to form a cloudy liquid. The lower the level of haemoglobin, the more transparent the mixture will become.
The precise level of haemoglobin can be assessed by studying the visibility of a pattern on the chamber wall and pinpointing the spot where transparency occurs. "It is like watching someone in the fog at the point where they become just visible," said Dr Rooney, who set up his own company, Sekatech Ltd.
"The advantage of the device is that it can be made very cheaply and therefore mass produced for use by many people in many different locations."
From a patient's point of view the device could replace the need to wait several hours for laboratory results while doctors make rough estimates of haemoglobin levels - sometimes giving unnecessary transfusions as a precaution or sometimes not giving blood early enough.
An early attempt to license the product failed when the company he was dealing with lost interest and Dr Rooney then asked for Health Tech's support, even making a presentation at Health Tech's own launch.
This proved to be a major turning point, with Health Tech able to support the development of the prototype to the current point of possible commercialisation.
Important factors included the securing of thousands of pounds worth of grants from Advantage West Midlands' Innovation Network and Technology Transfer Fund.
Health Tech also helped him to develop a business plan, gain the support of his Trust, find the required model makers and design experts and offered guidance on regulatory, patent and licensing issues.
Dr Rooney said: "It has been a very long haul but we are at the stage where we hope to present at an investment fair and attract potential investors. Health Tech's help has been essential in getting to this point - without Health Tech I would not have got here."