Oxford University and NHS trust agree multimillion-pound deal to sell digital health tech commercially

Partnership with Drayson Technologies includes licensing agreement, research funding, and a £5m equity stake in IoT company

Drayson Technologies has the option to license further technologies developed by professor Lionel Tarassenko of the University of Oxford Credit: PA

Digital health technology developed by academics and NHS professionals is to be sold commercially across the globe in a licensing deal with UK technology start-up Drayson Technologies. 

The London-based company, which specialises in healthcare-focused Internet of Things kit, has signed a five-year strategic research agreement with The University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Included in the deal is a licence to sell technology developed by the trust and the university at their jointly run Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, a facility funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

The trust and the university will receive “some of the profits” from the sale of the products they developed, according to a joint-announcement. Over the coming half decade, Drayson will also “sponsor significant further research and clinical validation of new digital health products” at the centre.

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In addition to the technologies already covered by the agreement, Drayson has the option to license further intellectual property developed by professor Lionel Tarassenko and his team in the university’s engineering department.

The IoT company has also completed a £10m series C funding round, led by Oxford-based fund Woodford Investment Management. As part of that agreement, the university and the trust will jointly receive an equity stake which Drayson claims is currently worth £5m. The firm has attracted a cumulative total of £41m in investment so far.

Peter Knight, chief information and digital officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I am delighted that the trust and the University of Oxford, working in partnership, have reached this agreement with Drayson Technologies. Working together will allow us to bring technologies that we invent and develop together to our patients faster. 

“We will also be able to reinvest royalties from the results of research and development created in the partnership of the university and NHS back into our services for the benefit of our patients.”

The trust covers four hospitals, comprising the John Radcliffe Hospital, the Churchill Hospital, and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford, and the Horton General Hospital in Banbury. It also provides clinical, training, and research services from a total of 44 further locations in Oxford and its environs.

Turnover in the 2016 fiscal year was close to £1bn, and more than 12,500 people are employed by the trust.

Drayson Technologies was founded in 2015 by Labour peer Paul Drayson who, between 2008 and 2010, served within the then Department of Business, Innovation and Skills as science minister. 

“Chronic disease affects the lives of millions of people as well as accounting for around 70% of NHS costs,” said Lord Drayson. “Digital health technologies offer the potential to make a huge difference for these people and save money for the NHS.”

He added: “This highly innovative partnership will ensure that there is a pathway from invention to commercialisation for digital health products created in Oxford that will deliver benefits to patients and reinvestment back into the University and the NHS Trust.” 

Earlier this year Drayson Technologies signed a licensing agreement with Oxford University for three other digital health products: the SEND system for vital-sign observation; GDm-Health, an app for pregnant women with diabetes; and EDGE-COPD, which offers software for managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Sam Trendall

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