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Demonstrating the Right Innovation for the Right Condition

Our research persuaded a major French manufacturer to abandon as non-commercial its development of a tissue engineered bladder or urethra. However, we were also able to show that the innovation had much greater prospect of success in hernia repair. Our work saved the company, Sofradim, wasted investment in one area and encouraged it to redirect its efforts towards much more likely gain to the company as well as benefit to NHS patients.right tool for right cond

Our critical question was whether the products would succeed in the market place, even if the venture proved feasible from a technical point of view. We were able to show that the market sought by Sofradim was constrained by the existence of a very good alternative, by the poverty of countries most likely to need the innovation and low volumes of remaining suitable cases.

In contrast, we were able to show that while the innovation had little prospect for small hernias, because existing methods were so successful, there were large potential gains with respect of big incisional and stomal hernias.

The Project

Sofradim, a French company based in Lyon, is a partner in an EU Framework 7 Programme, entitled STEPS. A team from Birmingham University, led by Prof. Richard Lilford, became involved with STEPS thanks to the university's partnership with MATCH.

Sofradim was involved in tissue engineering products. It sought to develop Urothelium, a view to creating tissue to replace either the urethra or the bladder. However, when MATCH was asked to examine whether there was economic "headroom" for such a product, it found:

  • There was already a very good alternative to tissue-engineered urethras
  • Its use in bladder reconstruction in cases of Bilharzia was unviable because most cases occur in very poor countries.
  • Bladder removal is rare and there are alternative non-invasive therapies
  • Even when it happens in the cases of cancer, the volumes for Urothelium are likely to be too small to be economic.

So, largely on the basis of this model, Sofradim abandoned development of a tissue engineered bladder or urethra. They asked MATCH, instead, to study the role of tissue engineering in hernia repair. The report found no role for small (inguinal) hernias, because, again, existing successful methods left little headroom for an expensive alternative. However, there was a prospect of large gains with respect to big incisional and stomal hernias.

Next steps

The company, a result of MATCH's studies, has decided to redirect its investment to towards these applications. Use of the MATCH's analysis has saved the company millions of Euros that it might have spent on an innovation that would not have proved economically viable.

Further Information


Professor Richard Lilford 0121 414 6772