Dr Alice Turner Presents to Delegates at The Exchange
Dr Alice Turner Presents to Delegates at The Exchange

Our recent symposium on Improving Sustainability in Respiratory Medicine convened industry leaders from the healthcare and life sciences sector along with key academics from the University of Birmingham. Initiated and hosted by Dr Alice Turner from the Institute of Applied Health Research, the event sought to address the need to ensure inhalers and devices used in the treatment of respiratory disease are more sustainable in order to minimise the negative environmental impact from their manufacture, use and disposal.

We opted for a hybrid event at The Exchange on Friday 18th February to discuss the potential of innovations in respiratory medicine and treatment design coupled with technology, consideration of materials such as plastics in manufacturing as well as a brief look at recent air pollution and indoor air quality data. These advancements in research areas that directly or indirectly influence the respiratory medicine field inspired a conversation between academics and industry delegates from a wide range of companies and healthcare bodies.

With the NHS producing 8% of the UK’s carbon emissions, efforts to create more sustainable solutions for patients affected by asthma and COPD are being discussed as viable alternatives to help curb carbon emissions. 

Delegates attending both in-person and online heard from key academics as they shared their research and insights on challenges and opportunities within the use of plastics, developing new respiratory treatments such as anti-viral nasal sprays, and changes in pollution levels and air quality.

Professor Andrew Dove discussed and took questions from delegates regarding his presentation into sustainable polymer research, waste policy, and plastic waste and how this may be used to make the recycling process of inhaler casings more sustainable. There was a lot of interest from delegates to incorporate the work from the Dove Research Group and the Birmingham Plastics Network to create viable and sustainable outcomes in respiratory medicine, as well as other areas of the medical industry.

Professor Liam Grover discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic inspired his team at the Healthcare Technologies Institute (HTI) to research and produce a new type of anti-viral nasal spray that was comfortable to use, would stick to the inside of the nose, and cover a large area of the nasal epithelium whilst blocking infection at high levels of dilution. These innovations in device and treatment design have been patented and licensed to a company that is now manufacturing it as a commercial product. We had the spray bottles on display in a mini-exhibition zone at the event.

Liam explained, “Having opened the HTI facility, we were able to quickly start working on technologies that could contribute towards management of the pandemic.”

Dr Suzanne Bartington from the Institute of Applied Health Research gave a presentation on behalf of WM-Air discussing the effect that some key pollutants from inhalers have on the environment and how to reduce them, as well as taking a look at how to improve indoor air quality.

The event also featured a med-tech industry speaker, Tomasz Mikosz, CEO of Findair who discussed how they provide better treatment for asthma and COPD patients through the development of the newest technologies such as smart inhaler devices, the use of A.I and data analysis, and incorporating software to enable advancements in treatment and device usage research.

After the presentations, delegates attending in person had the opportunity to network with academics and our business engagement partners to discuss ways in which the University can support their needs. The day wrapped up with thanks from Dr Alice Turner to delegates who attended and an invite to further talks with industry based on the day’s findings. 

The University of Birmingham is proud to be taking an active role in working with corporate partners on research that can lead to greater sustainability in this area. If you’d like to collaborate with us or hear about future events contact us at businessteam@contacts.bham.ac.uk