Jugglers, fire-eaters and a belly dancer, accompanied by a West Indian steel band, provided colourful entertainment for party guests celebrating the placement of Bayer Healthcare Diagnostics Division's 100th ADVIA® Centaur Immunoassay System in the Department of Biochemistry and Immunology at Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust on 24th July.
The party, held at the Social Club of the University Hospital of Wales, was hosted by Bayer in recognition of the University's long-standing partnership with the company. This began in the early 1980s when researchers in the College of Medicine at Cardiff first developed the revolutionary chemiluminescence technology which is now utilised in Bayer's immunoassay analysers, and has culminated in the hospital's recent acquisition of the 100th ADVIA® Centaur to be sold by Bayer in the UK.
Over 100 guests from throughout the hospital trust attended the party, whose circus theme reflected the ADVIA® Centaur's ability to help laboratories succeed in 'juggling' their ever-increasing workload commitments - an analogy which illustrates how the high productivity of this automated system enables hard-pressed laboratory staff to 'keep all the balls in the air'. To emphasise this point, several members of the Technology Research Centre and Laboratory Medicine Directorate teams were persuaded to try their hands at juggling, and were caught on camera demonstrating their new-found skills!
The party was opened by Dr Ian Parkinson, Director of European Support for Bayer Diagnostics, who spoke about the acridinium ester immunoassay labelling technique which was originally developed in Cardiff and is now an integral part of the chemiluminescence technology that underpins the success of the ADVIA® Centaur. (Chemiluminescence is a phenomenon whereby a chemical reaction in a sample being analysed leads to the emission of light.) "It's quite incredible to think that the starting point of acridinium ester was just a small flash of light and how it's grown into the sale of 100 ADVIA® Centaur systems in the UK, 1,000 in Europe and over 3,000 worldwide", he said.
Dr Rhys John, Consultant Clinical Biochemist at Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust, went on to say that chemiluminescence has become established as one of the most successful scientific techniques currently used in endocrine laboratory testing. Referring to his colleagues' ongoing collaboration with Bayer Diagnostics, he said that the partnership has been successful over the years in several ways. "Firstly, it has benefited the University of Wales College of Medicine which originally had the foresight to take out patents on the acridinium ester chemiluminescence technique. Secondly, acquisition of ADVIA® Centaur Immunoassay Systems (of which there are now two in the hospital's Biochemistry Department) has enabled our laboratory to provide a very large-scale endocrine testing service to GPs and hospital clinicians, in addition to an endocrine screening service for the whole of Wales. Thirdly, use of the analysers has allowed us to develop and evaluate new methods of immunoassay testing in the laboratory. It's very much a two-way interchange between ourselves and Bayer."
Mr Andrew Crowder, Directorate Manager of Laboratory Medicine at Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust, reflected on the reasons behind the department's decision to purchase the ADVIA® Centaur Immunoassay System from Bayer. "The chief drive in any of our procurements is towards better healthcare", he said. "The focus is very much on technology these days, and it's easy to get carried away with that, but at the end of the day what really matters is deciding what's best for patients. Because the science behind the system was originally developed here in Cardiff, we obviously have great confidence in the technology. We see the ADVIA® Centaur as a very cost-effective instrument, and the long standing relationship that we have with Bayer in this area has worked extremely well."
Dr Ian Weeks, one of the three researchers who originally developed the acridinium ester chemiluminescence technique at the College of Medicine, reflected on the huge challenges involved in bringing a scientific invention to the market. "When the College filed the first patent for the technique in 1981, it was very much a pioneering move as there were few commercial units in the academic world back then. As a result, the significance of the College's work in this field was recognised by the award of a Queen's Anniversary Prize in 1998", he said. "Just because something is a good invention does not mean to say that you are going to end up with a good product. Translating an invention into a product which can stand up to the scrutiny of regulatory authorities is a very difficult task. In fact, what we have here today is a great product, and many different people have been involved in its development. The invention itself is only part of the story as there is also a lot of skill required to translate the science into a genuine working situation. It takes a company with vision to get a product to where the ADVIA® Centaur is right now."