When the Vectura team of engineers set out to design a new respiratory device they follow a tried and tested development process – from initial concepts and design solutions to detailed analysis and testing and ultimately to manufacture and market. But the golden thread running through the process is always the needs of the patient. “For us, this is key,” said Andreas. “With all the products we design, we pay an awful lot of attention to the needs of the patient – how the device looks, the colours, how it feels, whether it’s intuitive. It’s one of the most important parts of our job, because improving patient’s lives is what we are about.”
As Associate Director – Device Development, Andreas leads Vectura’s dry powder inhaler development team, based in Cambridge, UK. A mechanical engineer by trade, his team is responsible for designing new inhalers, from a blank sheet of paper right the way through to market. The skills in the team are many and varied – from engineering and computer aided design to detailed mechanical analysis – but an understanding of the patient experience is never far from the surface. “In the initial stages of developing a product, we do human factors studies, during which expert members of the team test our concept designs with patients to watch how they use and interact with them. These experiences inform our product design and we check this all the way through the process,” says Andreas.
Although the team can produce a device from scratch in a matter of months, a continual process of iteration, testing and regulatory submissions can lead to a development cycle of five to ten years before a device finally reaches the market. So how does the team stay on top of rapidly changing technologies and patient requirements? “Fortunately, we at Vectura have a reputation for innovation,” says Andreas. “We are constantly developing new products and intellectual property. Typically, we’ll produce two or three new designs a year, but each product may go through five or more concepts. Vectura is a very innovative company and that’s borne out by the technologies we design and produce.”
The Cambridge design team is particularly proud of its Gyro-Haler device, a multi-dose, dry powder inhaler which was created to provide a better patient experience as well as more consistent, precise dosing. “It was designed to enable the user to see what is happening, so they can interact with the device and get visual and tactile feedback, improving the overall usability,” said Andreas. “It’s one of the products on the market that we can point to and say we’ve developed that with the user in mind.”