Behind every one of our nutritional solutions there is a dedicated team of people whose mission it is to make the lives of patients and healthcare professionals, easier. #NutriciaLife
Ben Green: driving research that changes patients’ lives
Ben Green is a Research Manager within the Medical Affairs department at Nutricia. After starting his career in Sports Nutrition, he soon gravitated towards the field of medical nutrition, and now conducts research trials in patients with new medical foods. Family is everything to Ben. He loves spending his free time with his daughter and soon to be wife.
I grew up and spent most of my childhood in Newcastle before moving to Leeds for university where I studied Sport and Exercise Nutrition. It was here I fell in love with nutrition and research. Seeing how nutrition, something many of us take for granted, can influence health and performance had me gripped. After my studies I was eager to work in a high-pressure environment so tried my hand as a performance nutritionist at Castleford Tigers RLFC. This was a voluntary role during the 2011-2012 season - and although they finished second bottom that year, I can assure you it had nothing to do with my nutritional advice!
Due to the difficulties associated with voluntary work I had to seek a new challenge closer to home. From 2012-2016, I completed an industry funded PhD and several post-doctoral research projects at Northumbria University in paediatric nutrition and metabolism before joining Nutricia in 2016 as a research manager. I wanted to start making a difference to people’s lives and joining Nutricia gave me the opportunity to do that.
There is no consistent day-to-day in my role as a research manager, and that's probably one of the reasons I like it. But to give an example of some of the activities I might be doing on any given day, it could be designing and setting up research trials or delivering research training to hospitals. I could be monitoring and analysing patient data, updating our global project teams about trial progress, whilst also working cross-functionally with our Nutricia Homeward team to set up patients and ensure they get deliveries of our trial products. I’m often involved in writing trial reports, be that for our reimbursement applications, or for scientific conferences, in the means of abstracts and full journal publications. I may also be performing taste tests with our new products, running stock checks, and monitoring closely the budgets that we have. As you can see, there are many hats a research manager must wear.
Our research team involves six people - not a huge team, but quite a close-linked unit that sets up and designs all our new trials. We run approximately eight to ten different research projects each year and produce around five to six abstracts/full journal publications. To the untrained ear that might not sound like a lot, but when you consider from design to completion, our research trials can take up to two years - and on top of that it can take around three to six months to have a paper or an abstract accepted and published (sometimes even longer) - that five to six figure suddenly becomes quite significant.
Being involved in research, the ultimate aim is to share and disseminate the findings from our research trials. This cements Nutricia’s reputation as being a credible partner, but also ensures everything we do or say about our products is evidence-based. It also continues to build the literature base, which can help our healthcare professionals when they come to make decisions as to which products they might prescribe for their patients. We work closely with our key opinion leaders and other healthcare professionals sharing insights, thoughts and opinions as to any emerging trends or gaps they see in our current product portfolio, which we are then able to pass on to our product developers to start designing a recipe to bring these foresights and insights to life.
It's incredibly hard to forecast how well a trial of a new product will be received by patients from a recruitment perspective. If patients like and are stable on an existing product, we sometimes see some hesitancy to take part in a trial of a new product and that is OK. We don’t want to burden patients care further but patient involvement is an integral part of making new medical foods available to the wider patient population. To aid good patient recruitment we like to collaborate with as many centres and healthcare professionals as we can across the UK. For those who do support us it’s all about working as a team.
For example, we recently completed a trial of a new tube feed that involved 11 centres and 29 healthcare professionals. This collaborative effort not only allowed for a successful product launch, but it also gave us the opportunity to find some positive patient observations. In this sense, we saw significant improvements in gastrointestinal tolerance, compliance and energy and protein intakes. For a patient with gastrointestinal tolerance issues, to be able to take this new product that may resolve some of their symptoms and better improves their dietary intake is huge and may lead to better outcomes in the long term. This new product has also been shortlisted for a new product award which is incredibly exciting! It is always fantastic to be involved in a trial that through the data we have collected not only leads to reimbursement approval but also receives external acknowledgement.
With this, hearing first-hand positive feedback about our new products - be that from patients, carers or dietitians - is really what gives me energy. While that might be restricted to the few patients that are involved in the trial, it is great to hear continued success stories from the wider patient population once a new product is launched. It’s one of the reasons why I came to Nutricia: to be able to make a difference to patients’ lives.
Nutricia has been conducting research and creating nutritional solutions for 125 years. This has made a huge difference to patients and healthcare professionals’ lives. The research I’m involved with today will hopefully continue to make a difference for many years to come.