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Adam Kelliher's latest foray into business - a revolutionary treatment for burn victims - is attracting international headlines.
After a two-year sabbatical from the world of commerce, following the sale of Equateq in Breasclete on the Isle of Lewis to BASF, the chemicals multinational, Adam is now heading up a company that is commercialising a new burns treatment that is fast, easy and can be used successfully across the globe by medics in the field with minimal training in its use.
With his wife Cathra, Adam also owns Borve Lodge in West Harris, as well as the Isle of Taransay, and earlier made headlines in the area with the development of the Broch and Stone Cottage visitor accommodation across the road from Borve Lodge.
His new venture is on a different scale. First developed in Australia, the ReCell® device kick starts the healing process by taking a postage stamp-sized sample of healthy skin and converting it into a suspension of skin cells. Essentially, ReCell is a mini-laboratory in a box that uses skin cells and enzymes to produce a cellular suspension in just 30 minutes. Requiring no refrigeration, the ReCell technology can be used almost anywhere either in clinical settings or more widely in the field, drastically reducing the current time frame counted in weeks for other skin culturing techniques.
As well as being an almost immediate treatment for burns, the other advantage of Avita Medical's breakthrough is that one postage stamp-sized skin sample can produce enough skin suspension to cover an area equivalent to an A4 size sheet of paper, a ratio of 1:80 of wound coverage, greatly reducing the need for skin grafting or skin graft sites.
“It is far less interventionist than other methods,” says Kelliher, “And anything that seals off the wound quickly will reduce infection. It is not an anti-infection treatment but anything that triggers healing, reduces shock and seals off the wound is good for the patient.”
Another key point is the ease of use. Doctors and surgeons can be trained in its use in an hour. Together with the lack of refrigeration, its two-year shelf life and being battery-powered, there are obvious applications for ReCell in Third World countries, military field hospitals and in disaster situations.
Explaining what tempted him back into enterprise, Kelliher says: “I was drawn to the company because it has a very exciting breakthrough technology for restoring the skin layer of wounds such as burns, product wounds and some cosmetic applications.
“It is a very exciting technology, the company has been around for about twelve years and they have done a lot of work in that time. They have more than 60 published trials, the device itself has been used more than 6,000 times and we are approved in 32 countries, so it has got some very strong assets.”
Unlike many other biotech companies which are in the growth start up phase, Cambridge-based Avita Medical is in the commercialisation phase. Kelliher's mandate and rationale for joining the company as CEO is to roll out ReCell across the globe and generate sales.
But it is more than just a business opportunity. “It is always good to be involved with something that can transform people's lives and can be of real benefit because when you start hearing the case studies and when people start reporting back to you that they have had terrible wounds that they haven't been able to heal and that ReCell has triggered the healing process, you feel you have made a real difference to people's lives.”
Recently ReCell received endorsement from an arm of the US Government. After two years of intensive talks, Avita Medical landed a contract valued at up to $54 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a US federal agency, tasked with disaster preparedness in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The five-year contract is a comprehensive offering that will support Avita Medical in its drive to launch in the USA.
Winning the contract was in itself a major achievement. Due diligence was intense so the award of the contract signals that BARDA believes in the product. “They don't do things lightly. You are talking about a big federal contract that is spending taxpayers' dollars which they, quite understandably, don't do in a flippant way. They have got to know this product works and can be of real value to the American population. Beyond the cash value of the contract is the validation of being supported by a US federal agency which carries a definite cachet.”
The milestone contract will also be viewed positively by the influential Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is in charge of medical licensing in the USA and are currently overseeing a separate approval trial with Avita Medical.
Kelliher was at his own admission not ready for early retirement at the age of 53 and needed “something to get his teeth into”. His two-year sabbatical “was good for a little while but I do think you need to be out there in the world doing something worthwhile, and from this perspective, Avita really fits the bill.”
But he underlines that getting back into business is not an undertaking to be taken on a whim: “I know from my previous businesses you have to live, think, breath the business. This is a full contact sport. You can't do it halfway, you really have to believe in the venture to make it succeed.”
Looking to the future, Kelliher expects Avita Medical to have in the next 12 months a very good idea of the efficacy of their FDA approval trial, be well into fulfilling many of the aspects of the prestigious BARDA contract, operating in more markets and selling more ReCell units than at present.
But though a serial entrepreneur in the past, his new job at Avita Medical has not been without its challenges, he admits. “I saw things that needed to be done, but there has been a whole learning curve that has come with the new job. For a start, my first two companies were wholly owned by my wife and I, and those were private companies. This is a public company listed on the ASX [Australian Securities Exchange] so there is a whole range of disciplines involved in that and ultimately I am beholden to shareholders as well. It is a different approach and more regulated by its nature. But I have been fortunate that these disciplines were already in place in the company, and so I have not had to set anything up on the compliance front.”
The main focus is to achieve the value that recognises the hard work to date and the potential of the technology. Currently the company is operating on a low capitalisation and low share price basis, so much of Kelliher's attention is on improving those fundamentals.
His outlook is upbeat: “Who knows where it will lead? Once you show proof of concept and recurrent sales in various markets, and show that kind of traction, all sorts of doors will open.”
Interview by Taylor Edgar
Catalogue from Hebridean Books – sellers of secondhand Scottish, Highlands and Islands, Gaelic, Football and Sport books at reasonable prices.
Catalogue 11 December 2015
19 Eoropie, Ness
Isle of Lewis
Phone: 07810 448911
Postage will be charged at second class rate Please allow 14 days for delivery.
If you are unhappy with any book/books I will fully refund the cost of the book and pay for any postage incurred.
1.Notes on the District of Menteith for Tourists and Others by R.B. Cunningham Graham. Illustrated with pen and ink drawings by Walter Bain.H.B Originally published in 1895. This 3rd edition published in 1907. £20
WRITER Catriona Lexy Campbell is holding a series of workshops in schools across the Uists and Barra this week as part of a project aimed at boosting young people’s writing skills by bringing arts practitioners into the classroom.
Catriona, who is also an actress, poet, dramatist and Associate Artist at Theatre gu Leor, is taking part in the islands-wide Gaelic education project known as Cèaird an Sgrìobhaiche, or The Writer’s Craft.
The project, which aims to bring writers and other artists into a close working partnership with teachers and school communities, is led by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann and also involves publisher Acair, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s multi-media unit and Gaelic arts agency Proiseact nan Ealan.
Part of one of Scotland’s most popular artworks will be on display in Benbecula during November and December.
In partnership with Museum nan Eilean, 30 panels from the Great Tapestry of Scotland will be on display at Sgoil Lionacleit from Saturday 14 November to Tuesday December 22. A number of events for all ages will be held at the exhibition.
The 142 metre tapestry, which is the brainchild of bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith, depicts the history of Scotland from the landscape’s geological formation to the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
The story is told in 159 boldly designed and intricately stitched panels that are the work of over 1,000 stitchers of all ages and both sexes from across Scotland. It is one of the nation’s largest community arts projects and 30 of these unique panels will be on display in Sgoil Lionacleit.
Since its debut exhibition at the Scottish Parliament in September 2013, the Great Tapestry of Scotland has been taken to the hearts of Scottish communities. Over 325,000 visitors from all over the world have visited tapestry exhibitions there and at other venues including Stirling Castle, Paisley Thread Mill, New Lanark, Aberdeen Art Gallery, and Ayr Town Hall.
Visitors have been amazed over by the tapestry’s epic scope and fascinated by the details of its stitching.
Mr McCall Smith, who spoke at an unrelated event in Lochmaddy earlier this year, said: “I am delighted that The Great Tapestry of Scotland is coming to the Western Isles. The Western Isles have made a great contribution to the history of Scotland and this is reflected in a number of the tapestry’s panels. I hope that as many people as possible will take the chance to see this magnificent and moving work of art.”
The project’s co-chairman and historian, Alistair Moffat, said: “This is a history of all of Scotland, and one that attempts to compass not only the whole nation but also all of its people as it tells the stories of shepherds, weavers, ploughmen, crofters, fishermen and all of the people who made our story come alive. Kings, queens and other powerful people have their place, but this is a unique way of telling our history – because it was made by the people of Scotland, a thousand stitchers, from Berwickshire to the Butt of Lewis.”
Trish Campbell Botten, Principal Officer Libraries & Heritage with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said, “We are delighted to welcome the Great Tapestry of Scotland to the Outer Hebrides in our council museum space in Benbecula. This is a wonderful opportunity to see such an impressive piece of art and history on our own doorsteps and to see the work created by local stitchers.”
Five of the tapestry’s stitchers are residents of the Western Isles. Margaret Macleod and Mary Macleod, the Lewis Stitchers, combined to make an early panel representing the visit of the Greek traveller Pytheas, who took a reading of latitude at Calanais in the fourth century BC. A stitching group who named themselves ‘The Sea-Mistresses’ worked on the panel depicting the loss of HMY Iolaire in 1919. This group consisted of Tracey MacLeod and Gillian Scott-Forest from Harris and Moira Macpherson from South Uist. Over the months of winter stitching, this group sent their panel back and forth to each other via the Leverburgh-Berneray ferry.
November opening hours: Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat 10am-1pm & 2-5pm; Thur 10am-1pm & 2pm-7pm; Closed Sun & Mon.
December opening hours: Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sat 10am-1pm & 2-5pm; Fri 10am-1pm & 2pm-7pm; Closed Sun & Mon.
FREE ADMISSION; Tapestry merchandise is available, payment by cash or cheque only
(By Katie Laing)
WHO in the Western Isles could forget the terrible events of January 2005, when three generations of the same family lost their lives as they tried to flee the hurricane that hit the islands.
Murdina and Archie MacPherson and their two children all perished, as did Murdina’s father, Calum Campbell, when the cars in which they were travelling were swept away by the sea. It is thought they left Murdina and Archie’s home in South Uist for fear of it being flooded.
Calum, who was 67, was well known as a piper and piping instructor and had also composed some tunes. The sheer number of them, though, did not become clear until his son Niall embarked on the difficult task of sorting through his father’s effects.
These tunes have now been put together in a new book from Lewis-based publishers Acair, working with various members of Calum’s family and staff from The National Piping Centre in Glasgow, in particular Roddy MacLeod MBE.
Ceòl Chaluim – The Pipe Music of Calum Campbell of Benbecula is a fitting tribute to a Hebridean who contributed so much to the music of this part of the world.
Roddy MacLeod hailed it as a “very welcome addition to the published repertoire of pipe music” and said that he had been unaware of just how much music Calum had written until staff at The Piping Centre began typesetting them.
The same was true of Calum’s family. In his introduction to the book, Niall said he would find pipe tunes in “boxes and folders, drawers and cupboards”, adding: “Some of them I was aware of, others I had never heard before.”
Niall found 60 or 70 tunes in various stages of completion and took them to the Piping Centre where Roddy agreed that 50 of them were complete tunes by Calum while the rest were second or third (even fourth) parts to pre-existing tunes.
Calum’s sister Catriona Garbutt, who wrote another introduction to the book, and her daughter Marion had an integral role in proofing the music.
Roddy gave all the compositions the thumbs up, telling Niall they were all “good tunes”. They had also all been signed and dated by Calum himself – a sure sign that, for his perfectionist dad, they passed muster.
Niall said: “The one thing I know is that if he had his name upon it, he declared it suitable as a good tune. I wouldn’t have been comfortable publishing something that he wasn’t satisfied was decent.”
Calum was a Hebridean piper out of a long tradition and this is evident in his tunes which, like the songs of village bards in earlier times, commemorated many local events and personalities. Most famous of them was Hercules the Bear, composed in 1980 about the animal that escaped while filming a TV advert in North Uist.
The tune is one of Niall’s personal favourites. “Quite a lot of his tunes mimic what the sentiment was. He was clearly envisaging Hercules jumping over the peatbogs and fences and almost sticking two fingers up, saying ‘you can’t catch me’.” Hercules the Bear is, naturally, a jig.
Calum’s compositions have another pleasing trait, as well as their sense of humour and light touch on life: onomatopoeia.
The Pumping Station, for example, written in 1956, mimics the noises of the engines in the pumping station in Balivanich where Calum’s father had worked, while Marion Margaret MacRury is about an aunt who was particularly proficient at picking winkles and the tune mirrors the sound of the winkles dropping in a bucket.
Another of Niall’s favourites is Harry in a Hurry. Written about an old cousin who was “so deliberate and slow”, Calum composed a tune that was quite the opposite.
This was one of the tunes played by renowned singer Julie Fowlis at a preview for the book in The Piping Centre back in August. The book was formally launched on Wednesday October 14 at The Royal National Mod in Oban. Julie was taught by Calum at Carinish Primary School and said he “introduced me to the music of the pipes and opened up a new world to me,” adding: “For that, Calum, I am forever indebted to you.”
Another esteemed piper, Fred Morrison, wrote the foreword. He recalled first hearing Calum play in the late 1970s and being drawn to his “musical, expressive and individual” playing. Of the book, he said: “For his music to be shared with everyone at last is a fitting tribute.”
A second concert is to be held to mark the launch of the book, this time in the Balivanich Hall, on November 12. A documentary on the making of the book, by Mac TV, is also in the pipeline and is due to be shown on BBC Alba at the end of December.
While there is an element of catharsis – “this is the first time we’ve been able to talk about it and look at music and at piping” – the whole process has been quite arduous.
And having been through it, Niall believes a lot of our heritage is at risk of being lost because of that acute mourning period, when loved ones cannot look at the creative works that have been left behind, and the subsequent uncertainty about what to do with the material when they can finally face it.
“I think a lot of our heritage gets lost because of this healing period. Quite often, people don’t really acknowledge that they have come out of it.”
He added: “The first tune was written in 1956. If it’s one person’s lifetime of works and it gets lost in a box then that’s tragic for our heritage and I think Acair should be commended for encouraging people to do this.”
He said they were also “very, very pleased with the help we’ve got from The Piping Centre”. Again, without them, the book would not have been possible.
He admitted it would be “quite a big thing” for their family to finally see their father’s book. “It never leaves you,” he admitted. “The tragic element is always there.”
Ceòl Chaluim – The Pipe Music of Calum Campbell of Benbecula is available from www.acairbooks.com, priced £10.95.