MILLIONS of people with diabetes could benefit from a simple new device aimed at helping them with insulin injections.
Designer Nick Harrison has invented the hand-held Diapak, a Needle Management System which aims to give back social freedom to diabetics as it enables secure storage of new and used needles.
It means that people who need medication when they are out and about will not have to take along a 'sharps' bin or risk needle stick injury from putting used needles into their pockets or bags.
Nick came up with the idea whilst he was a product design student at Wolverhampton University, and with the help of HealthTech has been able to turn his concept into a reality.
He said: "Without the support of HealthTech, I would not have been able to get the job I wanted, or make the contacts to take my product much further.
On a personal level, HealthTech have also helped me to grow and develop."
Nick explained: "I came up with the concept at university because I was living in pubs and was interested in the area of drug abuse and misuse on the social scene, where blue lights are used to tint the skin so people can't find a vein to inject. However, I was told that something in this area wouldn't get me the best grade so I looked at other areas of drug usage and found there were issues around diabetes.
"From there I talked to patients at New Cross Hospital and asked them how they managed their diabetes. People told me there was a stigma surrounding injecting in public. Often they would either put a used needle in their pocket rather than take along a sharps bin, or they would not treat their diabetes - or the simpler, they would just not go out and socialise."
The Diapak device he designed is a small, plastic 'carousel' with room for eight standard EpiPen needles which, in turn, can be fitted to a patient's EpiPen prior to injection. Once used, the needle can be returned safely to the carousel for closed storage, and the carousel is rotated to supply a the next new needle. "It is amazing that there is nothing else out there like it," said Nick.
He graduated from university in 2006, aged 23, after impressing tutors with his outline for the device, but was initially unable to get a job despite sending off 200 applications, due to 'lack of experience'. So by day he worked in a butcher's shop and by night he continued working on his invention at home.
He finally had a breakthrough when a friend put him in touch with HealthTech, where project manager Daniel Steenstra spotted Diapak's potential. Before long, Nick had secured a £25,000 grant from Advantage West Midlands, setting up his own company, Harrison Design Solutions, in the process. He runs the company from his Tipton home and has access to facilities at the Wolverhampton Science Park.
From then he was able to access rapid prototyping experts who could turn his computer-aided design model into the real thing - which he has since asked users to try out to get first-stage feedback to aid the design development, to the point where he says he is "95 per cent there." HealthTech have also helped him secure a patent until May next year and he is hoping to market the device to health professionals at a major medical conference in Germany.
"It seems such an obvious idea and it has gone down very weIl," said Nick.
"Children will also like it because a transfer picture of their favourite pop star or football player can be applied to the casing, so it makes the process more fun."
The company has been nominated for several awards and is working on a number of other medical-related projects. Nick said: "Daniel at HealthTech made me aware of certain things I needed in regard to running my own business so I also enrolled on a business course at Sandwell College.
"At university I had to write an assessment of where I planned to be in 5-10 years time and I said I would like to start my own business.
In the end I made that big leap much more quickly."