1) ProtocolNavigator: sharing experience and knowledge within laboratories
Biomedical sciences has become both a data intense and multidisciplinary endeavour. Despite the fact that there are a great number of databases and data mining tools available, that enable scientists to share experimental data freely, the reuse and analysis of these archived data remain rare. Why is this? As Albert Einstein once said “Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.” With current data sharing infrastructures it is difficult to capture and convey the experience and ”tacit knowledge” about an experiment – such as the expertise involved, the actions executed, and the overall design of the experiment according to a timeline.
Addressing the challenge, we have developed ProtocolNavigator (http://protocolnavigator.org), a free open-source tool for capturing and conveying laboratory activities in a visual and accessible manner. ProtocolNavigator enables biologist to emulate their day-to-day laboratory activities at a virtual bench. A process map or design of the experiment is automatically generated on a canvas, with activity icons, timescale, and navigational tracks. ProtocolNavigator enables researchers to capture and convey their laboratory experience and data within a navigable, interpretable, modifiable and assessable manner.
The role of the iSolve team is to seek and formulate a business model (perhaps multi-faceted) where the free or open-source aspect of ProtocolNavigator is retained but different commercial opportunities can be incorporated, bolted-on or spun-out.
2) Spatial Design Network Analysis (sDNA) – a network analysis tool for evidence-based urban planning – WINNING PROJECT
A team of researchers from the School of Geography and Planning has developed a novel network model which measures the “DNA” of a city. The sDNA tool uses spatial design analysis to better understand urban form and activity patterns by taking into account the underlying street network design structure. The underlying principle, based on social network analysis, is that while transportation networks are not the only indicator of urban form, travel, activity or land use distribution, an understanding of transportation network design provides a good framework for understanding and designing cities.
The tool has been used by Local Authority spatial planning departments, transport planners, urban designers and architects to better understand the existing built environment and the likely effect of “what if” scenarios. Current research using sDNA is investigating built environment design impacts on health, wealth and social cohesion.
The iSolve team will be tasked with imagining and investigating mass applications for sDNA which could be pursued. One possible avenue may be the use of sDNA in combining social media, mobile phone and location/feedback based services such as combining Facebook Place or Foursquare and/or dealing with urban challenge with ingenuity . The iSolve team will be required to explore the commercial potential for the applications, including identification of markets and the best business model (e.g. spin-out, licensing or other models) for further development.
3) Virtual Knee Rehabilitation (KneeReVirt)
A new field of Virtual Rehabilitation has recently emerged which brings together clinical sciences related to rehabilitation, movement sciences, biomechanics, informatics and virtual reality. At the School of Healthcare Science, a new GRAIL system (Gait Real-time Analysis Interactive Lab) has been installed which provides for advanced movement analysis which can be used as a basis for real-time feedback to patients with movement disorders. The system includes an instrumented treadmill, motion cameras, and projection onto a 180 degrees screen to create an immersive environment. The D-Flow software provides flexibility to develop a virtual rehabilitation environment of our own design.
An interdisciplinary team of researchers is working on the development of assessment and treatment for patients with knee conditions in this virtual environment. This is done in collaboration with the R&D department of Motek Medical, the company that installed the system. The objective is to make use of this novel technology and integrate clinical knowledge to create a set of appropriate exercises to help patients recover better. Knowledge obtained will be used to translate into simple solutions that can be used for exercise at home.
The iSolve team will be tasked to develop a more elaborate plan which needs to consider the best route to develop virtual rehabilitation and the business model that would be the most appropriate.
4) In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) App
The use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) is implicated in 1.6% of births in Britain with 35 000 women treated every year in the United Kingdom (500,000 worldwide). Figure 1 shows an ART treatment protocol. The active stage of ART requires about 9 to 12 days of self injection with potent fertility drugs to stimulate the production of oocytes (eggs), retrieval of oocytes via ultrasonography, fertilisation of oocytes in the laboratory and transfer of the resulting embryo to the uterus. The waiting stage of ART involves waiting two weeks to find out whether implantation and a pregnancy have occurred.
ART is physically and emotionally demanding and due to this burden about 22% of couples withdraw from treatment before achieving their goal of pregnancy. Our work suggests that if the burden of treatment could be reduced clinics would perform about 110 more cycles of treatment per year via better patient compliance.
We are developing a mobile application to support patients and the ART clinical team. The app has five functions that are tailored for each stage of treatment so users obtain the kind of support needed at each stage (e.g., drug monitoring during active stage, emotional monitoring during waiting period). The app also has data capture for research.
The iSolve team will be required to determine the commercial potential for the app, identify the most appropriate business model and determine the marketing strategies to ensure long-term top placement of the app given emerging competition.