BUSINESS INTERVIEW. Richard Kirk, chief executive of PolyPhotonix

PolyPhotonix CEO Richard Kirk will be one of the keynote speakers at the opening of a new NHS innovation centre.

As chief executive of Sedgefield-based PolyPhotonix, Richard is at the forefront of pioneering technology which uses light to treat a range of debilitating eye conditions.

On Wednesday (October 21), he will speak at the opening of the new Institute for Learning, Research and Innovation (LRI) at the James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough.

The institute brings together a full range of research, teaching, development, training and innovation facilities into one hub, with the ambition to grow and become a regional, national and international leader in its field.

Richard has been invited to give a speech about the importance of innovation.

He said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be involved in the opening of the LRI Institute as it’s such a perfect example of the importance of innovation as a driver of change.

“Great innovation comes in many guises, from the small incremental steps which lead to a major breakthrough right through to those huge changes brought about by big maverick personalities. Both have their place in bringing about change for the better within the NHS and beyond.

“We all know the NHS is facing tough times as a result of financial pressures. Innovation can transform patient outcomes while providing significant cost savings.”

PolyPhotonix manufactures the Noctura 400 Sleep Mask on NetPark, a treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy (DR), which can cause blindness.

After 20 years of being diagnosed with diabetes, nearly all patients with Type 1 and 60% of patients with Type 2 diabetes will have some degree of retinopathy.

DR occurs because during the night, as the eye adapts to the dark, it requires more oxygen than it does in the daytime. In patients with diabetes, who have circulation problems, this need for extra oxygen cannot be met and their retina begins to suffer the effects of a severe lack of oxygen.

The body’s response is to grow new blood vessels. However, these new vessels are weak, prone to bleeding and leakage of fluid in the eye. In the worst cases, this can cause blindness.

Traditional treatments involve laser surgery or invasive injections into the eye, and are usually only offered when a patient’s eye condition deteriorates.

But, the new sleep mask, which harnesses the power of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), can be used at all stages through the progression of the disease. It can also be used as a preventative care treatment.

The mask is designed to be worn by the patient at night. It emits a low-level green glow, which does not interfere with sleep, to reduce the eyes’ need for oxygen and stop damage from occurring.

The Noctura 400 recently won the SME Innovation in Healthcare category in the NHS-run Bright Ideas in Health Awards.

Around 260 guests are expected to attend the launch with key note speakers including Richard, along with Professor Ian Greer, vice president and dean of the faculty of medical and human sciences at the University of Manchester.