'We aim to show that engineering can be a real force for good': Max Woolley, Renishaw

Professional Engineering

'It has been incredible to develop products that can help patients'
'It has been incredible to develop products that can help patients'

1980-90, Bombardier Group

I left school and took part in a four-year craft apprenticeship with Bombardier Locomotive Engineering Works in Crewe. It was great as I had the opportunity to move between many different departments. I grew more interested in product design, leading me to become a new product engineer in my last two years at the company, tasked with identifying issues and finding design modification solutions to overcome problems found in new locomotive design. 

1990-96, Staffordshire University

I decided to gain academic knowledge to match my practical skills. I decided to study a Higher National Diploma in manufacturing engineering with business at Staffordshire University. I graduated with distinction before deciding to start a BEng (Hons) degree in mechanical engineering with design, graduating with a 2:1 in 1996. I studied under Professor Peter Ogrodnik, a biomedical engineer. Peter inspired me and he was extremely influential in changing my view of what I wanted to do, leading me to focus my efforts in medical device design. 

1997-2008, University of the West of England

I joined the University of the West of England as a research associate on R&D programmes to investigate innovative design solutions for bladder inspection, drainage and treatment regimens for patients with chronic urological disorders. Here, I worked under Professor James Scanlan who introduced me to aerospace engineering techniques, design methodologies and concept design analysis. I started R&D of principles from systems engineering, requirements capture and Quality Function Deployment for medical device design, working on a seven-year programme to develop innovative systems for the elderly. What hooked me was the contact with patients I was helping, enabling me to fully capture their needs. By the end of my time at the university I had obtained my PhD.

2008-10, Renishaw

I was then tempted to leave academia and apply my knowledge in industry. Renishaw was diversifying into neurosurgery and I saw this as a unique opportunity. I joined Renishaw as a senior research, design and development engineer and was tasked with solving the problems posed with the design of an implantable, intraparenchymal brain infusion catheter. It has been reported in some papers that, compared to systemic drug delivery, direct delivery that bypasses the blood-brain barrier can result in an 80-90% improvement in drug efficacy. Until now the challenges posed by such a chronic infusion device that could deliver therapy via a technique termed Convection Enhanced Delivery had been tried many times elsewhere, but were unsuccessful.

2010-17, Technical manager, Renishaw

We assisted in the design and manufacture of several world firsts, working with a Bristol hospital, which were implanted in over 43 patients with phase II Parkinson’s disease and a number of children with an incurable brain tumour, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). This led to us designing the Neuroinfuse drug delivery system, which uses patented catheter designs and a metal 3D-printed transcutaneous port to deliver drugs to a patient’s brain. The performance of this drug delivery system would in part not be possible without the company’s robotic and additive manufacturing departments.  

2017-present, Technical fellow, head of drug device R&D, Renishaw

We made a decision to move into clinical trials with the Renishaw proprietary device in order to gather clinical data to get it approved for use in world markets. The device is being evaluated in a phase I-II clinical study with Herantis Pharma, investigating cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. We aim to work on product development to help patients across the world, showing that engineering can be a real force for good and positive change. Renishaw has given me the opportunity to apply my experience as head of drug delivery device research and product development, and it has been incredible to develop products that can help patients by applying these innovative concepts to medical devices.

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