Taking technology from the lab to the patient: SMART Arm™: Hand of hope for stroke survivors

David henderson

Creating a viable commercial product from its beginnings as a research concept through to a final product patients can use is a long, difficult and often expensive process. However, as David Henderson, the Managing Director of UniQuest, one of the leading technology transfer companies in the Asia Pacific region explains, a focus on patient needs is vital for developing a successful product.

Mr Henderson, who will present on the 1st November at the 2012 Ausbiotech Conference on the changing strategies of funding for technology transfer, is well placed to comment on successful strategies for taking innovations from the lab to a consumer. UniQuest acts as a hub specialising in innovative ways to accelerate the commercialisation of research developments across high technology sectors.

Commercialisation is a competitive process. “We log about 550 new innovations each year. Fortunately, we have a great team of experienced commercialisation professionals working out which ones have the potential to attract investment or investor interest,” says Henderson.

A recent example of UniQuest’s multi-faceted approach to commercialising research innovations is Smart Arm Pty Ltd, a start-up established to progress the development, manufacture and marketing of a stroke rehabilitation system based on the collective effort of researchers from two leading Australian universities – James Cook University and The University of Queensland.

The Sensory-Motor Active Rehabilitation Training (SMART) ArmTM is a ground-breaking technology for stroke survivors involving a non-robotic device that enables patients to regain control of their upper limb weaknesses. Stroke is the leading cause of long term disability in the western world, with more than three million stroke survivors trying to regain control of their upper limbs.


Mr Henderson believes that successful medtech start-ups are those which are based on technologies that address clear unmet medical needs. having a “It’s about communicating both the commercial value and the community benefits to the right type of industry partner – whether it’s a licensee or an investor – to ensure the best possible networks are opened up for taking the innovation forward.”

Earlier this year UniQuest helped SMART Arm Pty Ltd secure investment from Townsville Mackay Medicare Local (TMML). “We now have TMML on board, bringing to the venture its commercial and community health acumen and access to rehabilitation clinic and networks worldwide, and it’s a partnership that demonstrates how collaborations between universities and industry can translate into real and practical benefits,” Henderson said.

UniQuest has garnered an impressive string of successes, amassing more than $450million with its start-ups since 2000. Notable successes in the life sciences sector include the commercialisation of Australia’s first blockbuster cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil® and Australia’s largest biotech IPO of $150 million for pain drug developer, QRxPharma in 2007.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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