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Innovation and creativity are two pillars at the heart of technological and scientific advances. The instrumental role they play has been recognised by the United Nations (UNN), who have designated a special day to raise awareness of the importance of innovation in culture and economic growth worldwide: 21st April. World Creativity and Innovation Day (UNN) is a day to encourage people to “think outside the box”, find new perspectives which push personal growth, identify different talents and cultures, and share ideas. The ultimate goal of the day is to  promote economic and knowledge growth, as well as expanding job opportunities across different communities. 

The Yourgene Health Innovation Team was formed in April 2020 as part of a restructuring of the research and development department. The brief for the Innovation Team during this first year was to: 

1) Develop externally-focused R&D activities

2) Ensure a solid pipeline of products and services

3) Drive scientific excellence across the company

4) Connect with the clinic 

World Creativity and Innovation Day presents the perfect opportunity for the team to reflect upon their achievements over the last 12 months in relation to these objectives. In doing so, these reflections highlight the crucial role their work has played in the development of Yourgene Health as a business. Some key highlights from the team are discussed below:

1) Develop externally-focussed R&D activities

The team have expanded their network, allowing them to facilitate potential licencing deals, collaborations and key partnerships. One key collaboration established was with a team of advisors at Health Innovation Manchester who bring expertise across all aspects of working with the NHS and innovation from trials, evaluation and market need analysis to procurement and adoption. Similarly, engaging with MMPathIC and NIHR enabled the team to access local expertise, IP information and clinical sample collections while ensuring we are immersed in the local innovation ecosystem alongside our local universities. The team also currently work with Imperial College London’s Industrial Partnership and Commercialisation teams to explore licensing opportunities in the coming year. The team recognises the importance of horizon scanning and keeping up-to-date with technological advances. An example of this practice in action is the production of bi-weekly reviews of the In Part Weekly digest and Genome Web. 

2) Ensure a solid pipeline of products

Over the last year, the innovation team has provided an assessment of several new technologies outside the companies’ current scope, including new amplification approaches such as LAMP (Loop-mediated amplification). Innovation was also instrumental in the development of the Clarigene™ SARS-CoV-2 product. Yourgene Health began development of the product in early 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team were able to reduce the workflow steps and mitigate extraction material supply chain issues, and have assessed different improvements previously addressed in the market. The work culminated in a methods publication focusing on reliability based on a proprietary internal control primers within the workflow, with the overall net result being to reduce false-negatives. You can read more about this here.

3) Drive scientific excellence

The team lead the culture of innovation through a scientific excellence series, introducing guest speakers and involving members across the company to ensure they are kept up to date with advances in technology. The hugely successful scientific excellence club (SEC) provides an opportunity to review scientific advances and evaluate emerging technologies to maintain scientific credibility and support professional development. SEC has been shown to play an important part in professional development as it improves skills in leadership, debating and critical appraisal.

4) Connect with the clinic

A big focus for the team over the last 12 months has been to connect more with Yourgene Health key stakeholders and opinion leaders and to use these relationships to improve the products and services we deliver. The results of building these relationships have included a joint publication with 6 NHS trusts, which outlined results and findings from the IONA® Twin Study. The paper concluded that NIPT is effective and safe at detecting Down’s Syndrome in twin pregnancies. This paper established the presence of Yourgene Health in the scientific media, demonstrating our commitment to partnering with the clinical community to the benefit of patients.

Yourgene Health team has also made an impact in the public health space, both in the UK and wider Europe. The Elucigene® DPYD assay is a pioneering example pharmacogenomics being truly integrated within routine care. The test is now being used across the NHS in both England and Wales to test all eligible oncology patients. DPYD screening has also been recommended in Belgium and Germany, where our pre-existing commercial background has allowed us to contribute to the market supply. 

From Yourgene Health, and particularly from the Innovation Team, we would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the innovation process within the Company, engaging with Dragons Den, Gateway submissions, Scientific Review Group, Steering Committees and to the overall growth of the business. We are looking forward to the coming year and hope to build on our innovation successes and continue to develop innovation within Yourgene Health. Happy Innovation Day!

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