Philips Research

Open to innovation

Philips, renowned worldwide for its consumer lifestyle and lighting products, is also a key global researcher and developer of healthcare devices and equipment, such as MRI, CT, X-ray and ultrasound. On a recent visit to the Philips Research campus in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Middle East Health was shown some of their cuttingedge healthcare research projects and introduced to their approach to the concept of open innovation. Callan Emery reports.

Research is integral to Philips. This vast multinational company has been inventing, developing and innovating products, systems and devices since 1891, when Philips was established. First it developed products for lighting, then lifestyle and more recently healthcare. Several of these have made their indelible mark on history such as the first X-ray tube, the compact audio cassette, the compact disc and more recently the Blu-ray Disc.

Philips Research, a separate division within Philips, was set up in 1914 and is now one of the largest private research organisations in the world.

Gert van Santen, Director of Healthcare Communications, EMEA at Philips, shows me around the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and explains how Philips has opened up its research and development in recent years – a bold move away from the closed and secretive approach to R&D, which has been, and still is in many cases, the status quo for companies investing large sums on innovation and invention.

“Philips realised that technological development these days requires a multidisciplinary approach and that they could not continue to go it alone,” he elucidates.

This has led to Philips embracing a philosophy of open innovation, a paradigm shift which permeates the organisation and, in research specifically, is inspiring innovation and new ideas through collaboration, partnerships and joint ventures as well as the incubation of independent start-ups that could just be sitting on the next big tech breakthrough.

The list of “who’s who” on the High Tech Campus reads like the register of companies wrapped up in some intrigue in a science fiction book – names like Atos Origin, Chematronics, Cytocentrics, Fluxxion, Serious Toys and Handshake Solutions.

“They’re not all part of Philips, but working together on the same campus creates an environment rich with stimulating ideas,” says Van Santen.

Philips Research

Van Santen leads me to my first appointment of the day – a meeting with Professor Hans Hofstraat, Vice President Philips Research, Healthcare Strategic Partnerships.

“Philip Research was started in 1914 at the same time that the Dutch Government implemented the patent law,” Prof Hofstraat explains. “It was started as a source of innovation and new developments within the company.

“Currently we are about 1,800 people strong representing many nationalities and disciplines. It is a global operation with a presence in Europe, the United States and Asia.

Philips Research supports all Philip’s sectors – consumer lifestyle, healthcare and lighting with innovations, inventions and long-term vision to generate new opportunities for Philips. “So for instance we were working on healthcare and personalised healthcare before we acquired companies in that area,” Prof Hofstraat says, referring to a number of acquisitions the company has made over the past few years.

In emerging markets Philips has a focus on China and India, although not exclusively.

“The requirements and possibilities of introducing new technologies in these markets are very much determined by local situations. With the experience we gain from these activities we can look to other emerging markets.

“We have research labs in Shanghai, for example, and from there we can look at expanding these applications to other emerging markets, the Middle East being one of them,” Prof Hofstraat points out.

“The Middle East is a very interesting area with a lot of opportunity and in healthcare it has very specific needs, such as those for type II diabetes.”

Open innovation

Prof Hofstraat says that in healthcare research Philips has adopted the principle of open innovation. “It was around 2005 when we took the fences down and opened up the campus.

“We try to come up with solutions that meet unmet needs in the clinical environment, in the application space where our users are.

To realise these applications in an integrated fashion we need to work with customers, suppliers and academia – so we build and create partnerships to move forward together. We also look to the outside world, to academia, to other companies to spin in new ideas and together share our insights, our technological expertise with partners that benefit as much from us as we benefit from the others.

“So this is what we are doing here – building an innovation ecosystem … a number of partners that together, where applicable with Philips, share infrastructure, share knowledge, share ambitions and aspirations.”

He explains that the Eindhoven campus is not the only such hi-tech campus. “For example, we have recently moved our laboratory in England to the Cambridge campus to work with the Cambridge ecosystem.”

There are around 70 hi-tech companies on the Eindhoven campus and it continues to expand. Companies that are on campus are not necessarily partners of Philips, although one criterion is that they should be involved in hi-tech research.

“Of course you can never predict how technology is going to develop and the opportunities created by having these companies in such close proximity are much higher than if they were remotely situated.”

The healthcare programme

Explaining the healthcare programme Prof Hofstraat says that Philips Research has adopted an holistic approach to medical conditions. “We call this the care cycle”. That is a cycle of prevention – screening – diagnosis – treatment – management – surveillance. The healthcare research programme focuses on cardiology, oncology and woman’s health – the major care cycles with which Philips Healthcare is involved.

“We are also looking at neurology, which is becoming increasingly important,” he adds. “Philips is looking at adding this as a care cycle in the future.

“Of course cardiology and oncology account for about two thirds of all deaths in the Western world, so these are of major importance. “Woman’s Health covers certain conditions which require a different approach, so it is useful to separate this into its own research category.

“We have four major research programmes that, as well as following the Philips roadmap, focus on new and promising solutions that will drive paradigm shifts in the delivery of healthcare. These programmes fall under the following categories: imaging systems; molecular medicine; home healthcare technologies; and clinical decision support applications. The four programmes intersect all the care cycles – cardiology, oncology, woman’s health and neurology.

Organ modelling

To see how some of these programmes are being put into practice Van Santen and I continue our tour across the sprawling Philips Research campus on this crisp, clear Autumn day to our next meeting with Dr Juergen Weese, who is part of a multicentre collaborative team working on a research project to develop “patient specific organ modelling”.

“CT and MRI scanners produce a huge amount of data,” Weese explains, “but just looking at all this data on its own is not sufficient. By developing patient specific organ models we will be able to capture much more of this information and make it readily available.

“With these models we can make the data inspection more efficient as well as being able to quantify the data – to make measurements of the organ – and then we will also use the images for therapy,” he explains.

The research team started by mapping the human heart. Using image recognition techniques that are able to locate anatomical landmarks and identify the boundaries between different types of tissue, the researchers take a geometric computergenerated model of the heart and map it to a patient’s CT scans of the heart to produce a patientspecific 3D heart model.

This model automatically segments out all four heart chambers, which enables radiologists to visualise the patient’s heart more easily, as well as being able to extract important clinical information, such as the chamber volumes, specific to that patient. Organ models have been around for some time, but they have not had the ability to be adapted to a specific patient’s anatomy like this.

“There is a lot of information encoded into these models,” Weese says, adding that they are also encoded for CT and MR protocols. “We are also able to create a time sequence movie which can provide information such as the injection fraction.” Weese and his team have recently extended the heart model to include the major vasculature attached the heart, such as the superior vena cava.

“Philips has a product available already which uses this technology – the EP Navigator.” The EP navigator visualises 3D cardiac anatomy and the position of catheters, in real time, in one image, in the EP interventional lab “We are currently extending these patient specific organ models to include the lungs and the rib cage,” Weese notes, while demonstrating an impressive time sequence that takes into account the breathing motion of the lungs and the heart beat in a single sequence.

The idea is create these models from for the entire body to create “a patient specific anatomy”. “So in the future we will also have patient specific models for the brain and other organs,” Weese says.

This research project is tied to the European collaborative euHeart project which started formally on 1 June 2008. “It is a project to advance personalised diagnosis, therapy planning and treatment of cardiovascular disease,” Weese explains.

Drug delivery

Next stop on the tour is the laboratory of Dr Marcel Bohmer who is developing an ultrasound mediated drug delivery system.

The idea behind this research is to have drug-loaded microbubbles, no larger than red blood cells, injected into the patient’s bloodstream, tracked via ultrasound imaging, and then burst by a focused ultrasound pulse to release their drug payload when they reach the desired spot.

The research team comprises a multidisciplinary network of researchers including biologists, physicists, chemists, electrical engineers from Europe and the United States. “Microbubbles have been used as an ultrasound contrast agent before.

What we are trying to do is develop them for use as an image guided local drug delivery vehicle,” Dr Bohmer explains, adding,

“We’re in the pre-clinical phase at the moment.” “The advantages of this, say if you are treating a breast tumour with a chemotherapy agent, is that theoretically by releasing the drug locally you could expect fewer sideeffects, you may use a lower dose and the treatment is non-invasive compared to surgery,” Dr Bohmer says.

In the lab they are conducting proof of concept experiments with microbubbles containing the drug in solution, which is, curiously, being created by an inkjet printer. The microbubbles have the potential to hold a variety of drugs from chemotherapy agents to DNA treatments.

“Once we have developed the proof of concept we will take this to the pharma industry and look for potential R&D partnerships,” Dr Bohmer says. “The idea is to conduct preclinical trials with the drug they want to use. “Optimistically we’re looking at at least seven years before we will see a commercial product.”

Most of these research projects pass through these trial phases, and there are many, ranging from in vitro diagnostics to rapidly test drug abusers for drugs of abuse, to developing clinical decision support software systems.

Some are in the very early stages and some are about to be commercialised in an endless stream of innovation and invention that continues a tradition started nearly 100 years ago.

ate of upload: 25th January 2009

                                               Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.