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The OCIT will focus on five key areas which address specific patient care issues and where Oxford has outstanding expertise:

1. Precise drug delivery – device targeted treatment and nanotechnology

Less than 2% of the injected dose of cancer drugs typically reaches the target tumour and rarely penetrates below the surface. So the effectiveness of even the most modern of these drugs is severely compromised. However, when administered with an external energy such as ultrasound, shock waves, or magnetic fields, existing drugs can be delivered much more accurately and with much deeper penetration of the tumour.

This revolutionary approach, which significantly improves the effectiveness of drugs, was pioneered by a team of Oxford scientists – the Oxford Centre for Drug Delivery Devices – in close collaboration with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. This team will move to OCIT to optimise these new approaches to drug delivery in closer collaboration with surgeons, radiologists and cancer specialists, and bring them to early-stage clinical trials within the next five years.

2. New eyes for surgeons – molecularly targeted and image guided surgery

Image-guided surgery

Identifying diseased cells in both conventional and minimally invasive surgery is a major challenge. However, combining the use of the latest imaging techniques with molecularly targeted compounds which attach to diseased tissue, the surgeon can be given ‘new eyes’. The diseased tissue is in effect illuminated and the surgeon can see precisely what needs to be removed to achieve a cure while ensuring that as little as possible healthy tissue is removed.

These ‘new eyes’ offer the opportunity to surgeons to make much greater use of cost-effective minimally and/or non-invasive interventions to enable successful outcomes without affecting the patient’s quality-of-life. Several methods of delivering these molecularly targeted compounds exist, including: high intensity focused ultrasound, photodynamic therapy, radio-frequency and micro-wave ablation, and shock-wave therapies. However, accurate delivery can be disrupted by the patient’s breathing and body structures. In addition, real time monitoring is needed so that the surgeon can ‘see’ that the target has been hit and the drug has been delivered effectively.

Working with practising surgeons, scientists in OCIT will develop these new forms of minimally invasive surgery so that these methods can become even more effective and used more widely.

3. Increasing organ transplantation

There is a desperate shortage of organs for transplantation but, crucially, many organs that are offered for donation are never transplanted. Patients require transplants in the best possible condition and many potential donor organs are damaged. A radical new approach to organ preservation developed by Oxford scientists and surgeons – the OrganOx metra™ – enables livers to be assessed, repaired and preserved for at least 24 hours before transplantation. This technology stands to transform the utilisation of donated livers, saving many more lives. Clinical trials are now underway across Europe and North America to evaluate this approach. This kind of technology has the potential to double the number of transplantable organs.

OrganOx metra™ provides just one example of the benefits that can follow when clinicians and scientists come together to combine their skills. Transplantation, already, one of the defining achievements of medical science of the last 50 years, is poised to achieve a great deal more. OCIT will create the environment for exciting innovations that will transform the future for patients with organ failure. Adding the latest approaches in drug, genetic and cell therapies to the latest in engineering technology will enable clinicians and scientists to take this practice to the next level.

4. Applying Formula 1 monitoring and simulation techniques

The McLaren Formula 1 team has developed sophisticated real time data collection and management, predictive analytics and simulation. These advancements have been driven by their relentless desire to win in the competitive world of motor racing. McLaren Applied Technologies is already working with Oxford surgeons and is committed to joining OCIT. Their team will develop and apply their monitoring and simulation techniques to improve patient monitoring and patient pathways. For example, utilising McLaren’s sophisticated monitoring techniques, we can get feedback on patients before, during and after surgery which potentially could help with anaesthetic assessment and improve surgical outcomes.

5. Decoding the brain – treating dementia

The Computational Neuroscience Laboratory will move into OCIT. It is focused on the study of brain function and brain information processing and the development of tools and interventions to help diagnose and treat brain disorders including neurodegenerative diseases and mood and movement disorders. This lab brings together the diverse fields of neuroscience, cognitive science, and psychology with electrical engineering, computer science, mathematics, and physics.
Current research includes the development of algorithms to analyse speech in order to identify markers that indicate early onset of Alzheimer’s. Parallel tracks of research are also being conducted to determine if light can be used to stimulate parts of the brain to help treat, for example, Parkinson’s tremor and depression.