Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Engineering Science


This Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) bid concerns developing the next generation of biomedical engineering researchers who, to be competitive in this fast-moving global area of engineering, need not only to be well-equipped with knowledge of modern biomedical engineering (BME) principles and techniques, but also well-versed in translational research skills (principles of clinical trials and commercialization of research). Modern BME research spans a range of technical areas, from hardware devices, to software systems, to artificial organs, biomaterials and drug delivery. It requires engineering researchers to understand biology/physiology relevant to their area, and increasingly multiple engineering disciplines that are only touched on in UK undergraduate education (e.g. modelling and imaging, sensor technology and biomaterials). This new DTC will attract and capture more UK engineering talent to this area and specifically to work at the translational interface. The translational interface takes laboratory-tested devices and methodology through the first steps of clinical validation. This does not just mean running a device or algorithm on a few clinical data sets. It requires close collaboration with clinicians, and deals with understanding how to design tests for a device/system in a clinical scenario and subject to constraints imposed by clinical practice; evaluating the technical and clinical strengths/weaknesses of a technology with the most appropriate statistical methodology; and via this, identifying new academic research questions that can be addressed in the development of the next generation of the technology. It also requires researchers to be aware of ethical issues (research involves patients), and commercialization issues (technology may be patentable and/or start the medical devices approval process). Research at the translational interface is thus fundamental to the advancement of the biomedical engineering field. The skills-base required for this would be most effectively obtained through formal training at the postgraduate level to prepare students for careers in industry or academia. At the University of Oxford we have established a critical mass of biomedical engineering research at the translational interface in the new Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) that would make this training most effectively achieved by establishing a DTC Programme.Three research themes have been identified for the DTC which are closely related to new biomedical research initiatives in the University of Oxford: cancer therapeutics (linked to the new Institute of Cancer Medicine and Oxford Cancer Hospital); modelling for personalised healthcare (linked to the Oxford Acute Vascular Imaging Centre), and information-driven healthcare (linked to recent successful bids from the recent EPSRC Digital Economy call).Postgraduate students on the DTC will participate in an intensive training programme in their first year, including a hospitial internship, modules on BME foundations (modelling, signals/systems, experimental methods), each of the 3 research themes, commercialization and entrepreneurship, and statistical methods and clinical trials. Students will also undertake 2 short projects, one of which must take place in industry or a hospital. One of the projects will become their doctoral research project. In yrs 2-4 the main focus is the research project, with an option to spend time visiting an international laboratory. Throughout there will be a programme of research skills training, and opportunities to engage with industry.The proposal has strong support from our clinical collaborators and industry players both large and small.


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