In this week’s feature, we speak to Amanda Winter, a Diagnostic Evaluation Healthcare Scientist from the North East Innovation Lab, who discusses what a day in her life is like:
- What does your work day look like in terms of tasks, meetings, strategy setting?
I tend do desk-based work in the mornings and go into the lab in the afternoons.
We have a daily team meeting first thing to discuss projects and priorities for the day ahead. Our work is fast moving, and it helps to get together to share ideas and input. We’re a close team and come from a range of backgrounds with skills including methodology and life sciences.
I’ll check my email, look at what meetings I have on and then it’s onto
protocol development for our clients’ studies. This is like an ‘instruction manual’ for how the project will be carried out to evaluate a particular test. We can support and advise on an approach, design a protocol from scratch or make recommendations based on our experience of what’s feasible in a healthcare setting. Sometimes we execute the client’s own protocol; we’re flexible and aim to take the best approach to make the evidence the strongest it can be.
Afternoons might be helping our research nurse to book samples brought in from the hospital. These feed into our biobank of 20,000 carefully curated clinical samples, including blood, serum and saliva, with associated detailed metadata. We can also collect samples prospectively to meet clients’ needs.
- What are your areas of responsibility in your job role?
New diagnostics can provide great benefits to patient care. However, developers need to provide a portfolio of evidence that demonstrates these benefits before their technologies can be considered for use.
I make sure that evaluations are effectively organised from a methodological point of view.
This includes considering whether the patient population is appropriate, with the correct numbers and samples required, and I’ll consider logistics to ensure we can access a particular healthcare setting. Being part of Newcastle Hospitals helps to build and strengthen our relationships with clinicians and improves access to patients for research.
My main focus is generating evidence to support the diagnostic development process. The team has the expertise to provide evidence for scientific validity which could be for example the detection limits of an assay, or whether something is analytically specific or sensitive. Another important component is whether the test works from a usability perspective.
As a team, we work closely with NIHR Newcastle In Vitor Diagnostics Co-operative and are holding an event to provide expert guidance for the evidence development pathway on 26 and 27 October between 10am and 4pm. Register here.
- What has been your career path so far?
I trained as a biomedical scientist in NHS labs, first in microbiology then in haematology and transplantation science. I became interested in how diagnostic tests were developed and took a role with NIHR Newcastle In Vitro Diagnostics Cooperative focused on exploring ideas and techniques around the methodological robustness of tests.
This led to joining the team at the North East Innovation Lab, working to support the development of the next generation of diagnostics; the cutting-edge technology needed to provide early and accurate detection of infectious and other health threats.
- What motivates you in your role?
I have worked in the NHS for over 10 years, and I have seen and experienced how challenging it can be to provide appropriate support for innovators to develop technology which has adequate evidence that it meets the needs of patients. My role in the North East Innovation Lab allows me a platform to try and address this challenge.
- How can we build on the lessons learned from the pandemic to help the diagnostics industry in the future?
I think the pandemic has brought a greater understanding of diagnostics, such as lateral flow tests and PCR tests, and some of the limitations of diagnostic tests.
We want to continue to support innovation and new ideas for wider availability of more effective and accessible diagnostics.
- What fuels you through the day – food and drink-wise?
I don’t have breakfast. I love a bento box! I bring in a packed lunch with various snacks in the different compartments.