OxStem represents one of the most exciting spinouts in the Oxford portfolio. Harnessing stem cell technology, the company is leading the way in developing regenerative health treatments for cancer, neurological, and otherwise untreatable age-related conditions. By creating a number of smaller ‘stems’ focusing on different parts of the body, the company could eventually pave the way to treatments that will reverse ocular, degenerative, and heart disease.
Alternative paths to impact
Beyond ‘classical’ spinouts, the University is finding new ways to bring its innovation to the wider world, such as the mobile and virtual reality education platform LIFE (Life-saving Instruction For Emergencies).
This compelling, immersive approach teaches healthcare workers in Africa how to manage a number of emergencies, with a focus on teaching the skills to treat seriously ill infants through its virtual reality programme. Over £63,000 was raised for LIFE through a crowdfunding campaign on OxReach, a platform dedicated to philanthropic projects from Oxford. This is being used to build and develop mobile technology-based training tools for low income countries. The scenario-based game is being tested in the UK and Kenya, and has established a number of high profile relationships with organisations such as HTC and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to bring its platform to a wider audience.
Led by Mike English, Professor at Oxford’s Department of Tropical Medicine, and Dr Chris Paton, Group Head of the Global Health Informatics Group, LIFE has received seed funding from the 2016 Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge and the project was a finalist in the PraxisUnico Impact awards
Another example of Oxford VR research driving innovation is Nowican, which is using the technology to better understand and treat mental health problems. Professor Daniel Freeman, from Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry, and his team have developed a series of effective treatments which put individuals in a safe virtual environment to help manage their anxiety disorder.
Oxford’s impact can be seen not only in new products and services, but also in the expertise made available to clients. Through Consulting Services, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) this year engaged Dr Kathy Parkes, an expert in safety and health in high risk environments, to advise on the optimal scheduling of driving tests through analysis of workload and consequent stress experienced by examiners.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to telling Oxford’s innovation story. As we experience the ‘Oxford Boom’, with an unprecedented level of spinouts being created and scaled up quickly, perhaps the most exciting chapter in that story is only just being written.