School staff win Entrepreneurship Centre prizes

Thursday 11 May 2023


On 3 May, two School of Medicine staff members collected their awards for the Entrepreneurship Centre’s bi-annual ‘What’s the Big Idea?’ competition. Senior Teaching Technician Henry Rae and Mackenzie Institute Coordinator Katie MacLeod and were each awarded £100 and have secured spaces on the Centre’s ‘Steps to Start Up’ programme running later this month.

Mr Rae’s prototype extraocular eye muscle model, which would help teach students about eye movements, won in the ‘product’ category. Mr Rae was delighted to accept the award and hopes to build on the support he will now receive from the Centre, saying:

‘I developed the eye model in response to a problem that repeatedly arose when teaching. I had great help from colleagues from the Dissection Room in developing a working prototype. It is not a problem restricted to St Andrews teaching and I hope with the help from the Entrepreneurship Centre and knowledge gained from the summer series programme we can bring this model to market.’

Ms MacLeod, who won in the ‘technology’ category, proposed a new screening programme for human papillomavirus (HPV) aimed at facilitating early detection of throat cancers. This virus is currently implicated in approximately 51.8% of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) cases – cancers of the tonsils, base of tongue, soft palate and uvula – in the UK. Ms MacLeod’s programme would involve initial at-home testing for HPV, with positive tests prompting invitations for OPSCC screening and negative results triggering retesting at a later time. She drew parallels to the existing UK cervical screening system, which empowers HPV-positive people to look for early signs of cervical cancer and facilitates regular testing. Responding to news of the award, Ms MacLeod said:

‘I’m really happy that my idea was chosen and looking forward to developing it further. The messaging surrounding HPV and its links to oral cancers needs improving, especially in younger generations that are generally unaware of the connection between the two. Screening for HPV is a responsibility only women have with cervical screening, which I think is a damaging message for men that believe that HPV is a women-only issue. Hopefully I can do something to change that.’

We are delighted for the winners and encourage all School staff and students to submit their ideas when the competition reopens in the new academic year. In the meantime, the Centre is running a Summer series of mini-programmes open to all, including non-University members. Visit their website for further information and registration details.

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