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25 July 2023

Under The Microscope: Episode 2 – Wayne Elliott

Resize Wayne 1

In the latest of the new Diagnostics North East Under the microscope series, Wayne Elliott reflects on his role as associate director for the commercial enterprise team at The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Can you tell me about the team and your role?

The commercial enterprise team came together in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and since then we have worked to establish and grow the team.

We have a diverse portfolio covering projects including healthcare, diagnostics, innovation, research, education, training, and pharmacy.

Our team has a variety of expertise, skills and knowledge gained from NHS and commercial backgrounds, which means we can offer a wide range of support for colleagues and partners in our own organisation, regionally and nationally.

We can provide expertise in business planning and strategy, pricing and financials, market research and analysis.

For external partners, we can help with an understanding of the NHS landscape and help bridge opportunities for working with Newcastle Hospitals.

I personally have over 20 years’ experience in industry, working in roles including retail operations, product development and commercial planning.

I’m passionate about the region and its potential for growth in areas such as innovation and life sciences, to enable us to continue to provide high quality healthcare for patients.

What have your first tasks been?

Resize Wayne and MelA couple of our biggest projects so far have been to support two of our labs – NovoPath NCL and the North East Innovation Lab – part of Newcastle Hospitals – in commercialising their research and diagnostic services, helping them to grow, achieve and maintain financial sustainability, and explore new markets.

We have refocused our team to continue to support the labs in this field and Melanie Shield, former commercial manager with the innovation lab, is now our senior commercial manager with responsibility for supporting commercial activity at NovoPath and the innovation lab.

Our expertise and guidance include commercial oversight of the labs’ work, business planning, service proposition, financial modelling, and strategic planning. We work closely with the scientists in the team to help to inform their ‘offer’ and support them to grow in new markets.

We also work closely with the NIHR Newcastle In Vitro Diagnostics Collaborative (MIC), which brings together Newcastle Hospitals and Newcastle University to support evidence generation for test developers.

How do you work with Diagnostics North East?

The North East Innovation Lab (NEIL) teamWe support the development of new diagnostics and the diagnostics pathway, plus initiatives in the wider sector, through our work with the North East Innovation Lab and Novopath.

The innovation lab works with developers, supporting with expertise and state-of-the-art lab facilities, and providing clinical samples and performance evaluations required to take tests to market.

Through the lab’s, developers have the support they need at each stage to take their test to market.  The lab teams can signpost to each other’s services and offer a joined-up work package based on clients’ needs.

The NovoPath teamNovopath provides access to a wide range of clinical samples from extensive archives and by request and uses cellular pathology techniques to identify indicators of disease in human tissue.

Both labs and the MIC are supporting the development, evaluation and adoption of diagnostics for better patient outcomes.

We also work with partners, such as Invest Newcastle, to help build interest and investment in the city’s life sciences sector.

Can you give me some examples of specific projects you’ve worked on?

It’s been really rewarding to be involved in Novopath’s work with AMLo Biosciences, which is helping to create a new test for early-stage melanoma skin cancer. The lab team validated the AMBLor test and has supported in providing a test referral service across the UK and USA.

We supported with mapping out the diagnostic pathway of the referral service, along with the costings and contracting, which ultimately helped to enable the roll out of the service in the UK.

Novopath is the commercial arm of the trust’s cellular pathology department, and the team has relocated to The Biosphere in Newcastle Helix to work alongside the Innovation Lab, taking advantage of state-of-the-art purpose-built facilities and the business opportunities that come with being co-located with many fast-growing life science businesses.

We’ve also worked closely with the Innovation Lab to support the team to expand their portfolio beyond Covid to areas such as infectious diseases and cancer with a global footprint. This enabled them to become financially sustainable and become a permanent service offered by Newcastle Hospitals.

The Biosphere – Newcastle Helix Site

What excites you about the role?

I love the job and working in the NHS. It can be complex, but the reward is knowing that you are helping patients.

We can enable teams to realise the potential of ‘just an idea’ and it’s rewarding being able to unblock perceived barriers or identify solutions from within or outside the NHS.

I’m not a scientist but having transferable skills in project management, operational delivery, product development, commercial planning and forecasting, enable me to develop and deliver our commercial objectives.

Understanding each lab’s evolving business proposition, and how we can grow and tailor that to meet emerging challenges and improve patient care, is central to their success and it’s really exciting to be a part of.

Ultimately, their work is benefitting patients and helping clinicians by making diagnostics faster, more accurate and more economical. This will inform and guide the most effective treatment and care, at the right time, which can transform people’s health.

What are the main challenges?

We know that diagnostic developers face challenges in getting a product to market and navigating the regulatory approval that’s required.  The innovation lab is able to support with evidence generation and robust performance evaluation to support the roll out.

Whilst Novopath’s biobank of three million archived samples along with a bespoke prospective sample collection service supports researchers who need to obtain much needed tissue for their research studies.

We work with businesses and organisations regionally, nationally and internationally, part of the challenge is continuing to share our work so that people know how we can support them with our specialist services.

What’s next?

We’re proud to be a key partner in the health and life science sector here in the north east.

One of the best parts of the job is connecting and sparking new conversations and relationships – we’re always looking to expand and develop our links with wider Diagnostics North East community.

Strengthening our labs’ offer and our national and international footprint is a priority for us, alongside growing key services including our extensive biobanks of clinical samples available for research, evaluation and validation activity.

We’re finalising our strategy for growing the trust’s commercial income, building and developing relationships and maximising opportunities across the organisation, wider NHS and industry.

This isn’t something we can do working in a silo, nor would we want to, as success is dependent on involvement and collaboration with colleagues across our own organisation and partners in the wider landscape.

How can your team be contacted?

Find out more about our work here or drop us an email nuth.commercialenterpriseteam@nhs.net

We’d love to hear from you.