Celebrating 70 years: Owen Mumford shares its journey to smarter, sustainable healthcare manufacturing

As medical device manufacturer Owen Mumford celebrates its 70th birthday this year. Jesper Jonsson, Director of Medical Devices, reflects on the family-owned company’s achievements so far, and its ambitions for the decades to come.

How was Owen Mumford born?

The company was set up in 1952 by Ivan Owen and John Mumford. They started in a small lock-up garage, working on improving existing medical products. [1] From here, they moved on to designing aluminium moulds for the plastic injection moulding industry. With this knowledge of the latest moulding processes, they began designing original medical devices. [2] The company has since grown from a small, family-run business based in Woodstock, just outside Oxford, to a global medical device innovator and trusted partner to some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies with offices in the USA, France, Germany and Malaysia.

In the past 70 years, Owen Mumford has produced multiple ‘world firsts’, starting with the first automatic lancing device for diabetes. What was the impact of this initial innovation?

After a conversation with two professors from Oxford’s Diabetes Research Laboratory in 1977, Owen Mumford was given the opportunity to design and manufacture a unique medical device: the world’s first automatic lancing device for diabetes. Autolet® was launched in 1978, firmly establishing the business as a medical device innovator, but most importantly, substantially increasing blood monitoring for diabetes worldwide.

We are also proud to have pioneered the world’s first plastic auto-injector (Autoject®), making it easier for patients of all ages to administer syringe-based medication. Other innovations include the automatic insulin pen (Accupen®) and the first all-in-one pen needle and remover (Unifine® Pentips® Plus).

Owen Mumford’s diabetes range includes an active safety pen needle. What are the benefits of using an active product, where the safety mechanism has to be manually activated?

With our Unifine SafeControl® [3] safety pen needle, users actively engage with the safety process by pressing on a push tab to retract the needle once the injection is complete. This means that users can make sure the entire dose has been administered before retracting the needle, giving them peace of mind.

For maximum protection, users can hear and see that the safety mechanism has been activated, and the product comes with a guard that covers the needle at both ends after injection. As the needle is visible, users feel fully in control during the injection process. The safety needle operates in exactly the same way as a conventional pen needle, so that injection is as intuitive as possible.

Apart from diabetes, does Owen Mumford manufacture medical devices for other therapeutic areas?

Since we started out with diabetes products, you may not know that we also manufacture medical devices in other therapy areas. We launched our new venous blood collection range this year. Drawing from our expertise and heritage in capillary blood sampling, we have created a range that optimises safety, comfort and quality. Needlestick injuries can be a serious issue in many clinical environments, and our devices have been designed to help protect both patients and healthcare professionals.

A product we are especially proud of is SimplitudeByMe, an at-home HIV self-testing kit, providing a result in under 15 minutes. Our recent partnership with HIV Scotland and the Terrence Higgins Trust has helped to provide 7,000 testing kits in Scotland to support the region’s Generation Zero campaign goal of ending HIV within a generation.

Lastly, we also have a second division, Owen Mumford Pharma-ceutical Services ompharmaservices.com which specialises in the design, development and manufacture of injectable drug delivery systems for the pharmaceutical, biotech and generics industries used daily in the delivery of various medications for a multitude of conditions across the globe. Products are supported by a team of pharmaceutical experts who work with partners on product development.

The product portfolio for Pharmaceutical Services includes UniSafe®, a spring-free, passive safety device for pre-filled syringes, and Aidaptus®, a two-step disposable auto-injector that can adapt to different fill volumes using only one device, providing a solution for formulation changes during development and lifecycle management.

How does the company set itself apart?

We look for talent in every discipline, from design to engineering, to make our great ideas a viable commercial reality – with the ultimate goal of improving patient lives. We talk to patients and healthcare professionals to understand how they use medical devices, the risks they face, their frustrations and their preferences. This understanding, combined with a multi-disciplinary team that includes R&D engineers, human factors specialists and patent lawyers, helps us design devices that are optimised for the end user. We are always looking to solve common issues with existing devices, so that we are constantly innovating and upgrading our device offering.

Sustainability is a key challenge and priority for every industry. For manufacturers of single-use medical devices, there is the additional challenge of balancing environ-mental concerns with infection control. How is Owen Mumford approaching this issue?

Approaching sustainability in the medical device industry requires a holistic view to processes and operations. We are focusing on optimising processes across all operations to reduce our overall environmental impact. We have already signed up for a number of initiatives that will help us in the pursuit of our sustainability goals. Signing up to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) [4] helped us to determine how quickly we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. With these targets, we are confident we can achieve our net-zero goal by 2045 and halve emissions by 2030. To keep us on track and accountable, we submitted ourselves to a third-party assessment securing B Corp accreditation [5] – we are really proud to be one of the first medical device manufacturers globally to achieve the certification.

While setting targets is important, we have already made real progress. Our UK sites are now powered by 99%+ renewable energy including energy we generate ourselves on site through solar panels. Across our UK, US and Malaysian sites we have reduced our scope 1 and scope 2 carbon emissions [6] by 27.3%.

What does the B Corp assessment process involve, and why did you choose this route?

Having already established our United Nations Sustainable Development goals (SDGs), pursuing a B Corp certification felt like the natural next step on our sustainability journey. However, the B Corp certification is not just a testament to Owen Mumford’s commitment to the environment; it also covers other areas of responsible business management. The assessment rigorously reviews multiple environmental, social and governance (ESG) areas to determine if processes are fit for a future where businesses are not just about profit.

We felt it was important to receive an external assessment of our progress to give weight to our sustainability communications. In particular, we were keen to pursue B Corp accreditation as it is not a static standard. Instead, the certification helps to manage continuing progress against ESG benchmarks, so that we continually raise the bar. Every year, we publish our Responsible Action Report [7] on the Owen Mumford website to share how we are progressing with each goal. It is so valuable for companies to share what they are doing on this front, so that we can learn from each other – we hope to see more collaboration from more companies moving forward.

The 2022 Responsible Action Report discusses how Owen Mumford is supporting women in engineering. Can you tell us more about this initiative?

One of our chosen SDGs is to improve gender equality in our company. One of the measures we have in place to support this is the leadership and management pathway training programme, which covers unconscious bias and provides consistent education to associates, delivered by third party experts.

With women making up less than a third of the STEM workforce, [8] we would like to help correct this imbalance. Collaborations with local schools and colleges, and sponsorship of early careers, apprenticeship and internship programmes are just a few of the ways we have tried to make an impact. Additionally, since 2017, we have monitored and addressed any disparities in pay between genders across all our sites.

What’s next for Owen Mumford?

These are exciting times at Owen Mumford! We are currently constructing our new state-of-the-art production facility in Witney, Oxfordshire. The £14 million site has placed sustainable principles at its core to achieve BREEAM certification [9], which economic sustainability performance. The site will set a benchmark for world-class design and development in medical devices, establishing a centre of excellence for automation and assembly.

On top of this, we welcomed our new research and development director earlier this year [10]. Bal Johal has a wealth of experience in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries, with previous roles at Circassia, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Mundipharma Research Ltd. Her knowledge will be critical as we look to develop new innovative products that improve the experience of both healthcare professionals and patients.

John Mumford & Ivan Owen, the founders of Owen Mumford, started the company from a small lock-up garage.