Edition #12

MiniFAB Newsletter, November 2013

CEO Report

Last month, Australia voted for a change in government at the same time that the US decided to shut down its government. Thankfully the US government shutdown is now just another bookmark in history. Nonetheless, the core issue of government spending limits and the provision of essential services such as health and aged care are concerns shared by both governments, and of course many other countries too. 

I attended the Health2.0 Conference in San Francisco at the time of the US government shutdown. It also coincided with the creation of new 'Obamacare' health insurance exchanges that will significantly expand the size and reach of health provision in the US. Health2.0 was a very interesting meeting where 2000+ delegates actively discussed issues related to the mega-structure of health care and service delivery. It is obvious to all that the US system has serious issues associated with fragmentation, huge variation in cost and quality and a crippling lack of data interoperability. However these challenges have stimulated an overwhelming array of innovations championed by entrepreneurs, with solutions ranging from cute smartphone apps to sophisticated “Big Data” analysis tools. 

For Indu Subaiya, CEO of Health2.0, the seven deadly sins of the US health system are:
1) Too much testing driven by the reimbursement system
2) Confusing and opaque hospital charging systems
3) Health Insurers with vested interests driving perverse behaviour
4) Unintelligible pharmacy benefit management (PBM) system
5) Hospital Electronic Medical Record (EMR) data not shared to protect market share
6) Patient medical data not (quite) accessible to patients
7) End of life care too costly and often futile

Future trends are obvious for all to see. The volume of health data will explode and patients will increasingly expect that physicians use, or at least note, much of this personal data. Individual data trackers ranging from WiFi enabled bathroom scales through to home-use blood analysis devices will generate masses of data. The boundary between regulated and non-regulated “diagnostic” devices will be challenged as developers come up with devices that extend hospital care into the home on the one hand, and provide tools for wellness-focused individuals on the other. It is not clear how this will shake out into an integrated health system, but what is certain is that the system will not look anything like the one we have become accustomed to. That is one reason why the new Australian Government’s decision to split Health from Aged and Disability care is concerning. The US system shows us how disabling fragmentation can be. 

More optimistically (and a lot more fun too!) was the final judging and announcement of the winner of the $2.2M Nokia X-Prize global competition at Health2.0. Congratulations to the winners, Nanobiosym Health RADAR and to the five Distinguished Award Winners. Each of the 12 finalists showed game-changing innovations in health sensing technology, including the wonderful Programmable-Bio-Nano-Chip from Rice University, which MiniFAB is pleased to be associated with. You should certainly have a look at the range of exciting life-science competitions available at X-Prize. At MiniFAB we are seeing more and more examples of innovation stimulated by prizes, philanthropic foundations and novel government programs as people get together to create innovations that will truly have a positive impact on the lives of others, and will, in their own way, contribute to the seismic change to health care that we will see over the next decade.

Erol Harvey - CEO

In Memoriam

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of MiniFAB Director, valued colleague and dear friend, Professor Ron Lawes. A larger than life character, Ron was one of the pioneers of microengineering who has left a lasting impression on the subject. He was a treasured mentor and colleague who was fearless in his views and robust in his arguments. Sometimes contentious, Ron was always generous with his time and shared an infectious enthusiasm for the advancement of the technology and its commercial application.

Ron was intellectually rigorous and often playful. He loved to push the computational capabilities of Microsoft Excel to the limits by creating complex spreadsheets as varied in application as the calculation of the energy dose for electron beam lithography and volume cost modeling for semiconductor based MEMS through to an analysis of the global impact of the feet of ants and the scaling laws for the attention span of insects as applied to conference presentations.

Professor Lawes was a keen supporter of many things, the English Cricket Team, track and field athletics, MANCEF, and importantly of the creation of MiniFAB. He provided valuable early mentoring in the establishment of our business model and has been a Board Member of MiniFAB since its inception. Ron was Director of Engineering at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the Founding Director of the Central Microstructure Facility (CMF) until he retired in September 2003. He continued his scientific career as a Visiting Professor both at Imperial College, London and at Birmingham University. Professor Lawes was a Chartered Engineer, a Chartered Physicist, a Fellow of the City and Guilds Institute, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and the Institution of Electrical Engineers and a Fellow of the United Kingdom's Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng).

Ron died in hospital in Oxford, UK, on Sun 3rd November surrounded by his loving family. He will be greatly missed by them and a considerable network of friends from around the planet.

See you at AMP

Join MiniFAB at AMP in Phoenix, Arizona 13th of November 2013

MiniFAB, Porex Corporation and Rice University's McDevitt Research Group will be presenting 'Design for Manufacture of the Programmable Bio-Nano-Chip Platform for In Vitro Diagnostics Applications' at the AMP 2013 Annual Meeting.

Today's advances in lab-on-a-chip systems are resulting in the detection of a wide range of analytes for lower costs, shorter analysis times and reduced sample and reagent volumes.

Join this workshop to learn about the design, development and outcomes of a single use, disposable, multiplexed and multiclass cartridge that has the potential to outperform all previous prototypes in terms of analytical performance, ease of use, reproducibility and cost of production. Developed through a public-private collaboration, this new programmable bio-nano-chip cartridge by the McDevitt Research Group (Rice University) could accelerate six major ongoing clinical trials. These powerful and flexible sensor devices have been adapted to include MiniFAB's design for manufacturing expertise and unique filter and membrane components from Porex Corporation.

The completion of high-fidelity multiplex and multiclass assays remains a challenge for the micro device field, as it expands upon results that are now achieved routinely in remote laboratory settings thanks to new technologies that can complete similar studies at the point-of-care.

Workshop Information

Wednesday, 13 November 2013, 8:00 - 8:50 AM
Camel Back A Meeting Room, Sheraton Phoenix Downtown
340 North 3rd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Find out more about AMP here.

FAB People

Welcome to FAB People; a chance for you to get to know the team that makes MiniFAB the world-leading custom development and manufacturing company it is. Each edition we'll speak with one of MiniFAB's expert engineers, scientists, designers and business managers. Today we meet Business Development Manager, Andrew Campitelli.

Andrew's focus is on building business relationships with clients, creating product development strategies and nurturing new business opportunities. Prior to joining MiniFAB, Andrew established and led the Biosensor Group at IMEC in Belgium, a world-leading research Centre in nano-electronics and nanotechnology. Andrew originally trained as an Engineer, with a PhD in Engineering (RMIT, Melbourne, Australia) and post-doctoral stage (CNRS, France) specialising in microsystem based biosensors for diagnostic applications.

MiniFAB has completed close to 1000 projects, you would have been involved, to varying degrees, in close to all of these. What is your favourite part of the product development process?

I really enjoy working with our clients at the very early stage in developing strategies to help them translate their product requirements, visions and aspirations into real products. Knowing that we are mapping out plans and processes to help develop the next big thing in medical devices is a huge buzz that I still get a kick from even after all these years.

It is the nature of MiniFAB's business to be on the cutting edge, but particularly in your role you are constantly dealing with 'never before' concepts. Have you ever been surprised by a client's product or technology?

I am always amazed at the new technologies that our Clients are coming up with, the level of creativity and innovation is truly world class, especially in the area of medical devices and diagnostics. We often see leading edge technology being applied in a new way in another field, such as mobile phone technology being used in the medical diagnostics applications, this is very cool.

Tell us something about MiniFAB that you wouldn't read on our website.

MiniFAB is more than a company. MiniFAB is about great people working together providing the best services and quality for it’s clients, in a very friendly and open environment. Everyone in the company is part of “Team MiniFAB”, and our Clients usually get exposed to the full spectrum of staff from our Engineers right through to our CEO and Executive Chairman (whom are famous for tuning up to project meetings and knowing every detail of the project).

Looking at the broader industry, what innovations are you excited about?

I’m biased towards any new technology or innovation that advances medical devices and diagnostics. Platforms that integrate multi-functionalities to get a better understanding of a particular complex disease (such as cancer) are very exciting right now. We are also seeing a lot of new exciting direction towards cellular, molecular and protein based diagnostics.

You spend a lot of time each year representing MiniFAB at conferences; any tips for surviving conventions? 

Smile. It is amazing how much fun it is to meet new people at Conferences and to learn all about their new ideas and projects.

You've been with MiniFAB for close to 9 years; any favourite memories? 

Lots and lots of fab memories. Too many places, event, dinners, meetings, and good friends. Working at MiniFAB is like working with family, we all get along and really enjoy what we do. One fond memory: meeting Iron Man at a Trade Show in LA last year, my 6yr old was most impressed.

I know you have a great limoncello recipe; is it your bioengineering training that makes the difference? What's the secret? 

My Italian family receipe. I have been sworn to secrecy by my mother. Lets just say it has some lemons and a drop (or two) of grappa in it…

Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn

Save the Date

Catch MiniFAB at these conferences in the coming months:

  • Medical Bionics – Engineering Solutions for Neural Disorders, at Phillip Island, Melbourne, Australia, 17 - 20 November 2013 
  • SLAS 2014 in San Diego, CA, 18 - 22 January 2014 
  • Molecular Med TRI-CON in San Francisco, CA, 9 - 14 February 2014 

To keep up to date with where we'll be, visit the events page on MiniFAB's website. Check it out here.

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