Cambridge Consultants to develop test for Ebola virus

30 December 2014

Consulting firm Cambridge Consultants will, together with non-profit organisation Diagnostics For All, develop a simple and low-cost device to be used to test patients for the Ebola Virus. The newly device will allow on-sight testing by minimally trained healthcare workers with results within 45 minutes. The project is expected to be in the field in six months and is funded with a $1 million grant of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

Currently, diagnosing Ebola is extremely challenging, from a logistical perspective, especially in rural areas. The patients will have to go to a clinic to get their blood drawn, which will then be transferred to a lab and tested, after which the health workers must then find the patient. As this process could take hours or days between taking a blood sample and providing medical treatment, an infected patient could already been spreading the virus.

Cambridge Consultants - Diagnostics for all - Massachusetts life sciences center

To speed up and simplify the process, product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants had partnered up with non-profit organisation Diagnostics For All to develop a low-cost device to test patients for the Ebola virus. The new device will be simple to use and delivers results quickly, which will make it possible to test patients in areas where there is little or no access to healthcare facilities and trained doctors, nurses and lab technicians to administer the tests. The project is funded by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, a centre that supports innovation-driven economic development initiatives, with a grant of $1 million.

The new device will allow minimally trained health workers to administer and run the test, without a lab, and get results within an hour. As the Ebola test will be a handheld, single-use disposable device that is smaller than a deck of cards, the test can be taken anywhere. To administer the test, the health worker will prick a patient's finger and directly apply a droplet of blood on to the device after which the device will diagnose the blood, a process that will take less than an hour. The device is expected to be developed, produced and in field testing within six months and will cost less than $10 per cartridge.

New Ebola testing device

“Simple, low-cost testing tools that require minimal training to use are becoming essential in developing countries where the virus outbreak is most severe. The combination of our systems design, mechanical engineering and human factors skills with Diagnostics For All’s vision and expertise in molecular diagnostics can help transform the way that health workers provide point-of-care diagnosis – and subsequent treatment – in at-risk areas,” comments David Chastain, Programme Manager at Cambridge Consultants.

Cambridge Consultants has 50 years of experience in developing technology products, including diagnostic, surgical and drug delivery devices. The new Ebola test is one of many recently developed devices to help the healthcare industry. Recently, the consulting firm also developed the Chimaera – a device to be used by neurosurgeons to deliver small implants in the nervous system, and the KiCoPen – a smart injection pen to be used by diabetes patients.


How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.