Fifth annual conference for Manx Biomed
11 December 2017
Manx Biomed held its 5th annual conference on Thursday 30th November. Over 100 delegates attended the event at the Villa Marina and included businessmen and scientists from on and off-Island, government officials and students, all with an interest in the developing activities of the Island’s biomed sector.
Minister for Enterprise, Hon Laurence Skelly, MHK, spoke at the event,
“The Manx Biomed conference is a positive example of cross government and industry working, showcasing collaboration on ways to nurture growth in the sector and constructive discussion on ways that technology can help deliver benefits to the Isle of Man as a whole.
‘The Department for Enterprise’s commitment to a diverse economy includes the continued innovation and diversification across our sectors and the nurturing of entrepreneurial talent. Biomed continues to be a strong area of interest and we will be working closely with the Health and Life Sciences Advisory Board going forward to enable the continuing success of this small but vibrant sector of the economy.”
The Isle of Man’s biomed sector has seen continued growth throughout 2017. Existing companies with an established Isle of Man presence have enjoyed expansion and new biomed companies have set up or relocated to the Island. Government’s Economic Development Scheme (EDS), established over a year ago and managed by Spark Impact, has now awarded its first tranche of funds with a number of biomed companies among this group. Alastair Demick a director at Cortech Healthcare, which designs, develops and makes a range of independent living products spoke at the event. He explained that the company had secured premises on the Island and had successfully begun recruiting for its growing team. Product design, hardware and software development and manufacture and assembly all take place on the Isle of Man and new products are already in development.
Mark Borzomato, investment Director at SPARK explained that the Islands location and easy access to quality professional support services combined with a skilled workforce and resilient telecoms infrastructure, makes the Isle of Man is an ideal base to operate a biomed businesses from, and is excited to see companies such as Cortech Healthcare establish and grow on the Island.
Long-established Isle of Man residents, Prometic Bioseparations have had a presence on the Island for over 30 years. With a local team of over 40 the Group employs over 450 staff. Although headquartered in Montreal, the Group, after careful consideration of all options, took the decision to invest in the expansion of its Isle of Man facilities. Plant manufacturing capacity has now been increased from 9,000 to 35,000 litres per annum, new warehousing and office facilities have also been created. Steve Burton, CEO explained that Prometic’s success demonstrates what an ideal location the Island can be, with all the necessary infrastructure and a supportive Government to assist a small Island based company grow into an international organisation, retain its Island base to have a significant positive impact on the Island’s economy.
Also present at the event were representatives from the Chamber of Commerce Future Young Emerging Leaders Committee (FUEL). They spoke as a panel about the FutureIsle Project, a review of some of the major global trends set to emerge over the next 25 to 30 years, and the impacts and opportunities these trends could bring to the Isle of Man. With technology changing at such a rapid rate the Island has an opportunity to respond quickly to maximise opportunities for both businesses and its population. As Claire Watterson of PwC explained, the Isle of Man has the 11th oldest population per capita in the world and will need to embrace new technologies if it is to continue to provide quality healthcare and manage the increasing demands an elderly population will make on its budget.
The Island has a long history of entrepreneurship and delegates heard from several local businessmen about new products and technologies being developed on the Island to address healthcare issues. Local businessmen Bruce Elliott and Peter Quayle, both in their 50’s with Mums in the their 80’s, introduced Memory Lane Games, an app to help patients with early signs of dementia. Recent studies have shown computer-based speed of processing training, or video games, improve memory and result in a decreased risk of dementia and this app does exactly that turning memories into a game to create a personalised dementia therapy tool.
A diverse range of presentations from Isle of Man Biomed businesses were given throughout the day including a presentation from Courtenay Heading. Since leaving his role as Government Biomed Advisor, Courtenay has been involved in setting up Jurby Wellness and returned to the stage to talk about a project looking at the sustainable production of nutraceuticals using microalgae. Rachel Glover, famous for identifying the Manx Cat genome a few years ago, has recently returned to the Island to establish a new company, Taxa Genomics Limited, specialising in environmental monitoring, species identification, with plans to branch into Pet Genomics to offer inherited disease testing and genome analysis.
Dave Taggart, COO, Glycyx Therapeutics Ltd, who had chaired the day’s event said,
“It was great to see both existing and new Manx Biomed companies presenting. Every single group that presented has been either founded here, is relocating part of their business here, or has received funding on the Isle of Man - in many cases all of the above. One particular highlight was the role that young Manx talent has played in creating some of the businesses - including cracking problems that have stumped huge computer science departments to create new digital health apps. It was also exciting to see several Biology and Business students from the Isle of Man high schools in the audience - maybe they will be the next generation of health and life sciences entrepreneurs!"