Scientific innovation at cutting edge

AS THE winter weather has started to bite, and my annual bout of coughing and spluttering has arrived, I began to think about modern-day medicine.

AS THE winter weather has started to bite, and my annual bout of coughing and spluttering has arrived, I began to think about modern-day medicine.

Gone are the days when we had to sweat out a cold, eat endless bowls of chicken soup, or resort to our favourite hot toddy to get better. Instead, we pop along to a pharmacy, stock up on an all-in-one remedy, and within days we’re on the mend. And that is all thanks to science. Every day, advances are made that make us less and less vulnerable to illness.

This month, geneticist Sir Paul Nurse took up post as president of the Royal Society.

Sir Paul made one of the most groundbreaking medical discoveries of our age when he identified the gene responsible for cell division, an advancement that could unlock the cure to serious diseases like cancer.

Having returned to the UK from New York, where he was president of the Rockefeller University, Sir Paul talked of the challenge the country faces to ensure science remains at the forefront. He said it’s “one of the best- kept, great secrets that we are really, really good at science”, and I would have to agree.

Here in the North East we have some really innovative businesses that are doing their bit to change the face of medicine and science.

On Durham’s NETPark is Kromek, a company known for developing technology that will transform security checks in airports around the world. The company has secured a four-year contract with the University of Massachusetts Medical School to develop an advanced system for breast cancer detection.

The contract, worth around $1.5m is fantastic news for women worldwide and also represents another feather in the cap for Kromek, which is establishing itself globally thanks to innovative work.

Kromek is one of the shining lights for the North East’s technology companies. Beginning as a spin-out from Durham University, it has quickly built a reputation as a pioneering business that is leading the way for the region’s science and technology companies.

It is one of a number of cutting- edge businesses based at NETPark that are a hotbed for innovation.

Science is indeed one of the region’s best-kept secrets. It is up to us, in this corner of the country, to make sure we help our science and technology companies to flourish, and showcase their work nationally and internationally. While we may well be feeling less than fighting fit, it is clear our science businesses really are in the very best of health.

:: Stewart Watkins is managing director of the County Durham Development Company

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