Partnerships with academia play an important role in enhancing development and implementation processes of in-vitro diagnostic technologies. At M4IVD, we are proud to welcome Dr. Philip D. Howes, as individual member. Philip, is a Senior Researcher in the Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering at ETH Zürich.
Dr. Philip Howes, why do you think now is the right time to build M4IVD alliance?
The process of diagnosis is an absolutely critical step in being able to treat an individual for their disease. In-vitro diagnostic devices play a crucial role in many diagnosis scenarios, and increased availability of cheap and simple devices has the potential to positively change healthcare globally, in both the developed and developing world. The COVID-19 pandemic, and particularly the lack of testing options and infrastructure, starkly highlighted the need for diagnostic devices that are both highly accurate and widely available. We saw that, although the technologies that were required do exist, they had not made it sufficiently far through the development pipeline in order to make a significant impact in the critical early stages of the pandemic. Therefore, I think we can all recognize that we need to take new approach to in vitro diagnostics development, whereby we are able to identify, nurture and support innovative ideas and technologies through the various stages between inspiration at the lab bench through to positive impact in the real world. The M4IVD alliance represents an excellent framework in which this can be achieved, and for that reason I am extremely happy to be part of it, and I look forward to helping it to grow and deliver impactful technologies in the near future.
What themes within IVDs do you find the most compelling?
The field of IVDs is very multidisciplinary, bringing together important discoveries in fundamental chemistry and biology research and achieving impact through advanced engineering. So, I find the variety in the people and disciplines in the field to be compelling in itself. Regarding specific scientific concepts, I am focused on the idea of bringing developments in the world on nanomaterials chemistry into IVDs to help create new generations of highly sensitive tests. The explosion of interest in nanotechnology, and the establishment of nanoscience as a subset of materials science, has given rise to so many exciting new phenomena and materials with unique and useful characteristics. A great challenge facing researchers is to put these new discoveries to work in improving global quality of life. My broader research, then, is focused on discovery, characterization and optimization of nanomaterials, and their applications in biomedicine and energy and environmental science.
How did you end up living in Switzerland?
I grew up in Cambridgeshire in the UK, which is completely flat. The highest point in the county is around 50 m above sea level. Because of this, I am completely entranced by the mountains, and the Alps in particular. So, I was drawn towards the mountains, and ETH Zürich is obviously an amazing destination in one’s career, so putting these things together lead me to apply for an Individual Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellowship to join ETH, which I started in 2017. Professionally, this gave me an excellent opportunity to learn a new field, microfluidics, with Prof. Andrew deMello, which I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from. Now, I am focused on delivering maximum positive societal benefit through my research, and I believe working with the M4IVD alliance is going to be a big part of that.