1. Dr Rosie McEachan announced as keynote speaker at Growing MedTech Translation 2019

     Dr Rosie McEachan, Director of the Born in Bradford Research programme, is confirmed as the keynote speaker for Growing MedTech Translation 2019.

    Rosie is an applied Public Health Researcher, passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of communities. She works with a range of health, education, voluntary sector and local authority stakeholders to develop and evaluate innovative interventions to improve health and reduce inequalities.

    She has attracted over £45 million in research funding (with £9 million as Principal Investigator) from international research funders and published over 80 peer reviewed journals.

    About Born in Bradford

    Born in Bradford follows the health and wellbeing of over 40,000 Bradford residents to explore why some families stay health and why others fall ill. It is the cornerstone of Bradford’s unique role as ‘ City of Research’.

    Findings are used to develop new and practical ways to work with families and health professionals to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities.

    Their mission is simple: to conduct rigorous and applied health research that improves the health and wellbeing of families in Bradford and beyond.

    Their research falls into three key areas:

    • The Born in Bradford Study: this monitors the health and wellbeing of over 13,500 children, and their parents to review the ways that our genes, lifestyle, local environment and services we access come together to affect our health and well-being.
    • Better Start Bradford Innovation Hub: this study aims to recruit 5000 families living in selected areas of Bradford to see the impact of early life interventions on the health and wellbeing of mothers and children.
    • Catalyst for change: Using the findings from their studies, Born in Bradford have developed a range of additional research projects which are evaluating and developing new interventions to improve health.

    About Growing MedTech Translation 2019

    After a successful launch last year, Grow MedTech and Translate MedTech are back with a 2019 Annual Conference – a unique opportunity to learn more about current medtech being developed in the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions.

    The conference will bring together our vast community of academics, industrialists, clinicians, innovators and funders to enjoy lively, interactive presentations and networking.

    The event is currently sold out, but you can register for our waiting list to be notified if new tickets are released.

  2. Decision tool gets to the heart of the problem

    Patients making choices about healthcare treatments need to fully understand their options, but unfortunately this does not always happen as well as it should in clinical practice.   

    Grow MedTech is funding the development of a digital tool to help patients with heart disease to make more informed decisions about their treatment.

    The new device is based on funded research, led by Professor Felicity Astin from the University of Huddersfield. The research team studied the way the process by which patients opted for a treatment called coronary angioplasty happened and surveyed the views of patients and cardiologists at ten NHS Trusts in England.    

    Coronary angioplasty (CA) is one of the most common medical procedures worldwide and involves opening up partially blocked arteries in the heart. When this treatment is given to  people with stable heart disease unpleasant symptoms of angina can be relieved.

    Professor Astin discovered that these patients were often opting for this treatment without a clear understanding of the risks and benefits – often mistakenly believing it would reduce their risk of future heart attacks.

    Crucial funding

    The multidisciplinary team – working with the NIHR Devices for Dignity MedTech Cooperative – decided to develop a digital decision aid that could be used by patients and health professionals to work together to ensure that patients are making informed choices about CA.

    However, they struggled to find a funding source to cover the crucial gap between research findings and a prototype device – until they discovered Grow MedTech.

    “There’s limited funding around for establishing feasibility and creating a prototype,” says Dr Emma Harris, Research Fellow in Patient Education and Communication at the University of Huddersfield.

    “The support, contacts and commercial advice we’ve had from Grow MedTech has been fundamental in helping us to take the project forward.” 

    Using the Grow MedTech Proof of Feasibility award, the team set up a working group involving expert patients, doctors and nurses working in cardiology, academics with expertise in cardiology care and decision aid development) and Devices for Dignity with their technological expertise.

    They’ve run two workshops, one with patients who’ve undergone CA and the other with cardiology healthcare professionals, to get vital input on the content and working of the decision tool.

    A personal decision

    Based on this consultation, the team are now developing the content, while Devices for Dignity develop the software side. The tool is being designed to not only help patients understand the general risks and benefits of the treatment, but also what it might mean personally for them, in terms of their hobbies, future travel plans, medication side effects or lengths of hospital stay, for example.

    Once the prototype is ready, it will be tested with patients who’ve recently undergone a CA and with cardiologists and nurses. This will involve twenty participants across two NHS trusts, to help understand how the tool can be made flexible enough to fit into different healthcare pathways.

    “Involving end users, both the patients and the clinicians, in the design of the tool is a critical part of the project,” explains Dr Harris. “Ultimately this tool can help them both – ensuring clinicians are able to do their job well in terms of informed consent and that patients make the best decision for them personally.

    “It’s been really helpful to have Dr Luke Watson, our Grow MedTech Technology Innovation Manager, to go to for advice on the commercial side. He’s worked directly with Devices for Dignity on issues such as IP and copyright, freeing us up to do what we do best – the research and work with stakeholders.”

    Professor Astin agrees: ‘We want to ensure that the research has an impact on clinical practice to improve patient care and the Grow MedTech support is helping to make this happen.”

  3. Accelerating the pace of advanced material development

    The pace of advanced material development is accelerating rapidly and nanotechnology, sophisticated computational modelling and material science are allowing us to design and modify materials that solve problems in radical ways. 

    These new materials are creating high value markets but it can take decades for these materials to turn into commercially successful products —and this needs to change.

    In 2013 the UK government included advanced materials as one of the “Eight Great Technologies” in which the UK is set to be a global leader.

    In the UK businesses that produce and process materials are essential to the UK economy. They employ over 2.6 million people, create 15% of GDP and generate sales in UK of £170bn pa.

    Grow MedTech’s approach is to harness these advances in new materials and apply them to create novel medical devices to meet unmet clinical needs. 

    By recognising the vast potential of advanced materials and the need to test markets and develop applications rapidly, we support teams to operate at speed to develop their technologies and de-risk the innovation for future investments.   

    The growing interest and excitement in advanced materials is also reflected in the decision of major research and innovation funders in both the UK and EU to target advanced materials within their portfolios. 

    This is especially true in medical, health and wellbeing research funding programmes. Examples include the importance of this research for smart-related health systems, bio sensors, optical sensors, micro and nanoelectronics and smart nano- and bio-materials.

    Narrowing the focus

    Advanced materials can have applications in several industries and so getting the right partnerships in place at the start is crucial to help researchers narrow the focus of projects towards the most distinct clinical applications.

    These decisions can be tough to make when the properties of a new material have many potential applications. 

    Grow MedTech supports teams to explore their technologies and ensures a robust commercial case can be made for new developments.

    At the University of Bradford, for example, a team led by Professor Anant Paradkar has developed a biocompatible liquid crystal material, called ‘Self-Gel’ which has several applications including, wound care, assisting surgery and imaging & sensing.

    Grow MedTech has supported Professor Paradkar in assessing the clinical need and commercial viability for several end applications. The next step is to direct the focus towards one particular product: developing the material as an injectable ‘cushion’. 

    This innovation will reduce the risk of perforation and haemorrhage during polypectomy procedures and so make the surgical procedure safer whilst offering the patient a faster overall procedure time.

    Overall, this will increase work flow within the NHS and support the NHS to meet the increased demand from an ageing population who are all looking for increased outpatient-type services. 

    “Support from Grow MedTech has also enabled us to build a strong strategic relationship with the NHS supply chain,” says Professor Paradkar. “We have recently signed a collaboration agreement with Huddersfield Pharmacy Specials (HPS) – a manufacturer owned by the NHS – and we will work with HPS to scale up this technology and industrialise for market”

    Tackling big healthcare questions

    Because advanced materials have properties and capabilities that have never before been seen in healthcare, they are providing ways to tackle extremely common, yet intractable problems that place a huge burden on patients, on healthcare systems and on the economy.

    One of the biggest of these is back pain. More than 10 million adults in the UK suffer from lower back pain (LBP) and it is the leading cause of disability in England, representing 11 per cent of the disability burden of all diseases and costing the economy some £10.7 billion each year in sickness days, work loss and care costs.

    At Sheffield Hallam University, Grow MedTech is supporting a team, led by Professor Christine Le Maitre and Professor Chris Sammon, to develop an injectable biomaterial that could replace a number of different current therapies.

    These include painkillers, physiotherapy, or invasive spinal fusion surgery – an operation used as a last resort and often with limited success.

    As with many other advanced materials projects, Grow MedTech has worked with the team to help narrow down the product development field.

    One product now in development, called Bgel, works to promote new bone formation, offering the possibility of safer and more effective spinal fusion without the need for metal implants and rods.

    A Grow MedTech Proof of Feasibility grant will enable the team to explore the use of Bgel in cows’ tails. These are an effective substitute for the human spine and will enable the team to carry out early-stage tests to see if a simple injection of Bgel can effectively fuse discs together.

    Exploring new directions

    Once a technology has been proven for its selected application, researchers will often explore further directions for development.

    A great example of where this approach has worked extremely successfully is at the University of Leeds, where acellular biological scaffolds are being developed to repair and replace human tissue. Called dCell®, the technology has been commercialised through Tissue Regenix and products for woundcare and cardiovascular applications have already reached the market. 

    New ways to apply these dCell techniques are continually being explored. Dr Jennifer Edwards, a post-doctoral research fellow in Leeds’ School of Biomedical Sciences, has been awarded Grow MedTech Proof of Feasibility funding to investigate ways to remove cells from donated adipose tissue.

    The aim is to produce an implantable product that surgeons can use in reconstructive surgery without triggering an immune response. Working in collaboration with NHS Blood and Transplant, Dr Edwards’ team is looking particularly at developing decellularized fat pads that can be used to treat diabetic foot ulcers.

    These kinds of approaches show the incremental improvements and developments that are possible following the invention of a new material.

    We don’t know, yet, what other applications will be discovered for dCell technology, but by helping bring together researchers from different disciplines  with relevant industry and clinical partners, we’ll be giving each great new idea the best possible launchpad.

  4. Grow Your Idea: Pump Prime Funding Competition

    Are you a researcher developing a medical technology at one of the Grow MedTech partner Universities? Could you benefit from pump prime funding and innovation support to derisk and advance the development of your technology towards commercialisation and clinical application?  

    Overview 

    Grow MedTech is inviting applications for up to £10,000 to support the development of a commercially inspired medical technology innovation, through our Pump Prime Funding Competition. 

    Successful shortlisted applicants will have the opportunity to pitch their proposal at the Grow MedTech Annual Conference on 6 December 2019 in a “Dragons’ Den” style session where a panel of experts, patient representatives and audience votes will decide which project is funded.  

    Eligibility 

    Grow MedTech supports the development of medical devices, materials and software but does not support the development and discovery of pharmaceuticals.  

    Applications are invited from researcher (post-doctoral to professorial level) led teams who are based at one of the six Grow MedTech partner universities: University of Bradford, University of Huddersfield, Leeds Beckett University, University of Leeds, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of York. If you are applying as a postdoctoral researcher you will need the approval and signature of your academic supervisor. 

    This call does not directly fund industry/commercial organisations. However, proposals from University partners which demonstrate evidence of an industry-defined market need and projects with industry partner contribution are encouraged.   

    This award is not intended to support basic research. 

    Eligible costs

    ✔ Research support/technical staff time (directly incurred staff costs) 

    ✔ Early stage prototype development 

    ✔ Consumables 

    ✔ Travel expenses if proportionate and key to the development of the technology 

    ✔ Regulatory pathway guidance 

    ✔ IP landscaping and advice on IP protection 

    ✔ Market, opportunity and competitor analysis 

    ✔ Developing technology road maps and routes to commercialisation 

    ✔ Patient, carer, and public consultation workshops to identify and validate the need for a project or technology 

    ✔ Clinical consultation workshops with clinicians and healthcare professionals to validate the need for a project or technology 

    Ineligible costs 

    ✖ Indirect or directly allocated staff costs (i.e. tenured academic staff) will not be funded 

    ✖ Costs relating to staff recruitment and relocation costs  

    ✖ Personal license fees and home office license  

    ✖ Funding to provide maintenance of equipment  

    ✖ Capital IT equipment and office stationery costs  

    ✖ Support for intellectual property protection, exploitation or freedom to operate reviews. 

    ✖ Grow MedTech will not directly fund industry/commercial organisations 

    Budget & project duration

    • Up to £10,000 
    • 6-month duration (projects must be completed by 31st December 2020) 

    How to apply and assessment process 

    Apply using the application form. Completed application forms should be emailed to info@growmed.tech by 4pm Friday 11 Oct 2019 for shortlisting by the Grow MedTech Technology Innovation Management team.  

    Shortlisted applicants will be invited to pitch their proposal at the Grow MedTech Annual Conference on 6 December 2019 in a “Dragons’ Den” style session where a panel of experts, patient representatives and audience votes will decide which project is funded. 

    Expectations 

    Awardees will be expected to work closely with a Grow MedTech Technology Innovation Manager throughout the duration of their project including providing a detailed project plan, monthly updates and an end of project report. 

    You may also be required to present on the project at Grow MedTech events or as a written case study. 

    Important dates 

    • Competition opens: Monday 9 September 2019  
    • Submission deadline for application form: 4pm Fri 11 Oct 2019 
    • Shortlisting notification to applicants: by Friday 1 November 2019 
    • Submission deadline for pitch slides from shortlisted applicants: 4pm Monday 2 December 2019 
    • Pitching at Growing MedTech Translation Annual Conference: Friday 6 December 2019 
  5. A small grant provides substantial support

    Our Proof of Market (PoM) grants allow researchers to address crucial, early-stage commercial questions. Coupled with advice and support from our Technology Innovation Managers (TIMS), they enabled one team of researchers at the University of Bradford to take some important first steps.

    Professor Mohamed El-Tanani, in the University’s Institute of Cancer Therapeutics, is developing a blood test to determine the likelihood of breast cancer patients developing secondary tumours – known as metastasis – based on a biomarker discovered through his research. Simple, fast, low-cost and suitable for all breast cancer types, it would offer substantial advantages over the more expensive and complex genomic tests currently used by clinicians.

    Professor El-Tanani found that one of the first questions potential investors asked about the technology related to regulatory approval, questions he – and Dr Jason Jones Commercial Manager at the Faculty of Life Sciences – found difficult to answer. They applied for a Grow MedTech PoM grant to fill this gap.

    Specialist advice

    The funding covered the costs of a specialist consultant, who provided a detailed report on the regulatory challenges involved in taking a test like this to market. This included quality assurance of manufacture and putting the latest In-Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) regulations into plain English, to provide clear steps to regulatory approval.

    “We can now go into investor meetings with confidence and answer these key questions,” says Dr Jones. “To make a proposition like this attractive to investors, you need to show there can be low-cost market entry, with the infrastructure and quality procedures required kept as simple as possible.”

    Making connections

    Funding is only part of the support that the project has received from Grow MedTech. University of Bradford-based TIM, Kieran Perkins, has continually been on-hand to provide advice and useful contacts for the team. This has included an introduction to the National Institute for Health Research Leeds In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative (NIHR Leeds MIC) and clinicians at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

    “An important part of the Grow MedTech approach is to make those connections with other areas of expertise or knowledge that are needed for translational work, but that may be unfamiliar to some academics,” says Kieran.

    Professor El-Tanani agrees: “Developing a clinical technology has to take into account the opinion of patients and the NIHR Leeds MIC will help us do this, as they have active PPI groups. They’re also going to work with us on the health economics aspects, so we can quantify cost savings of the test to the NHS.”

    The close working relationship between Kieran and the University’s commercialisation team has been as productive as the grant itself, welcome as the funding always is, according to Dr Jones:

    “The concept of having Grow MedTech people with specialist expertise based in each University has worked really well at Bradford,” he says. “Having Kieran on hand to answer questions, provide advice and review grant applications has been invaluable.”

  6. Dual-action dressing to help diabetic wounds

    A new type of wound dressing that can both manage infection and promote healing is being investigated thanks to Grow MedTech funding.

    University of Leeds Lecturer in Healthcare Materials, Dr Giuseppe Tronci, will use the Proof of Feasibility grant to combine his patented collagen dressing, proven to boost the healing process, with a chemical that has antibacterial properties when activated by light.

    Reducing antibiotics

    The aim is to reduce the need for antibiotics and help improve wound management, particularly for diabetic patients. People with diabetes can suffer from nerve damage and reduced circulation which makes them more prone to developing wounds that are slow to heal and more likely to turn into chronic ulcers. The NHS currently spends nearly £1 billion a year on diabetic wound management, and the number of people with diabetes in the UK is set to rise to over five million by 2025.

    The collagen dressing, called HyFaCol, was developed by Dr Tronci and colleagues with support from the Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre and MeDe Innovation and is set to enter clinical trials. Using the new Grow MedTech funding, Dr Tronci will look to add additional capability to the HyFaCol dressing by encapsulating a photosensitive dye – already in clinical use – into its fibres. The dye is toxic to bacteria when activated by light and Dr Tronci plans to test whether it has the same action once part of the dressing, while not harming human cells.

    Dr Tronci said: “The way the dressing and the dye are combined is vital. We need the light to reach the dye to activate its antibacterial function and then we need the dye to be able to act on the wound without leaching out and staining the surrounding tissue. This funding will allow us to show whether this is possible, before we move forward to create a dual-function dressing.”

    Effective collaboration

    Dr Tronci has already teamed up with clinical and commercial partners for the project. These collaborations will ensure that the research focuses on production methods that can be easily scaled up through existing manufacturing routes and that clinical needs are being addressed at an early stage.

    “We hope that, if we can show that the technology is feasible during this six-month project, we are then in a good position to move quickly towards first-in-human trials,” said Dr Tronci.

  7. Partnership will improve treatment and dignity for Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms

    A tool to improve treatment for patients affected by Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) is being developed in a new partnership between the University of Huddersfield, UScale and Sheffield-based digital health company Elaros.

    LUTS refer to a group of medical symptoms that can significantly affect quality of life for men and women. Millions of people are affected by LUTS in the UK and hundreds of millions are affected worldwide.

    Symptoms vary, but can include the experience of sudden, urgent needs to urinate and a significant increase in urine frequency during the day and during the night.

    One of the main obstacles to successful treatment is the availability of a straight-forward test to measure how severely the patient is being affected.

    Currently, patients are asked to use jugs to measure the amount of urine they pass for three consecutive days, and record the results in a paper-based diary. This can feel undignified and leads to low compliance. The lack of information provided to health professionals as a result affects the quality of treatment they’re able to provide.

    In this partnership, funded by Grow MedTech, Elaros, UScale and the University of Huddersfield are combining two separate technologies to address the problem.

    UScale, developed by Dr James Williamson at the University of Huddersfield and NHS urologist Mr Nicolas Bryan, provides a more effective way of taking measurements, while a digital bladder diary devised by Elaros helps maintain an accurate, easily accessible record.

    Using UScale, the patient urinates into a disposable container connected to a digital scale. The device records the weight, and the patient can simply empty the receptacle and throw it in the bin before leaving the bathroom.

    Meanwhile, the digital bladder diary developed by Elaros enables users to track the volume, urgency and frequency that they urinate over the three-day monitoring period, using a smartphone app. The data captured is analysed by a powerful algorithm, linked to NICE Guidelines, before providing an indicative diagnosis back to the health professional. The data and report can then be added directly into the patient record.

    These two technologies will be brought together into one prototype device using a £20,000 Proof of Feasibility grant from Grow MedTech. The combined device will enable UScale to automatically fill in an online digital bladder diary when used, and make this information accessible by the patients’ health professional.

    The Grow MedTech Technology Innovation Manager who brokered the new partnership, Dr Luke Watson, says: “In isolation each party’s device improves patient compliance, but when combined they create an all-in-one solution with the potential to improve treatments for millions.

    Elaros’ CEO Professor Paul O’ Brien said: “We know the significant role that academic collaborations play in advancing our work. This collaboration allows us to further our goal of developing a powerful diagnostic tool to support clinicians in providing effective treatments and provides a dignified healthcare solution for end-users.”

    Dr James Williamson said: “Currently patients tend only to record measurements at home because of the impracticality of taking a measuring jug to work. This new device will require minimal training and, because it’s small and discrete, it can be used in a public toilet or at work without risk of embarrassment.” Lead clinical partner and urologist Dr Nicolas Bryan said: “This funding is helping us to develop a product that will be widely useful and will help patients secure the right treatment to allow them to achieve the best outcome.

  8. An intelligent approach to medical technologies

    It shouldn’t really be a surprise that artificial intelligence (AI) gets a special mention in the long-term plan for the NHS, published in March. AI is seen as important for the future of the NHS because it can make healthcare more effective and efficient, leaving staff free to focus on, as the plan puts it, the ‘complexity of human interactions that technology will never master’. With a growing population, limited resources yet more and more treatments available, the use of intelligent technology will be key to ensuring our healthcare services can keep pace.

    At Grow MedTech, we see AI as one of the most important digital technologies that will combine with traditional medtech to create the products and technologies of the future. And Yorkshire is a hotbed for the technology, with all of our partner universities offering expertise in the field.

    Of course, the term AI is frequently bandied about – and often misused – to describe anything that involves the use of computer models. In fact, it refers to hardware or software that’s capable of intelligent behaviour – understanding, reasoning, planning, communication and perception. Although as an academic discipline it dates back to the 1950s, the true potential of AI is only just being fully realised, because we now have the ability to create, store and manipulate the huge amounts of data that give AI its power.

    The power of data

    AI is able to make use of data that is beyond the capacity of humans to handle, either because there’s literally so much of it, or because the variations that need to be identified within it are too small or complex – and this is where machines can be more effective and efficient than people.

    One example is the ‘virtual physiotherapy’ technology being developed by Professor Dorothy Monekosso from Leeds Beckett University, with Grow MedTech support.

    The system combines video software and sensors to remotely monitor a patient’s movements during post-stroke rehabilitation exercises and uses AI to spot small variations or changes in those movements. This allows clinicians to monitor progress following discharge from hospital and enables patients to have more supervised therapy and get immediate feedback on progress.

    Clinical decision-making is unlikely to ever be completely supplanted by AI, but the power of the technology can be used to augment and improve the decisions our healthcare professionals make.  Professor Grigoris Antoniou from the University of Huddersfield is using anonymised medical records of 130 patients who died through suicide to develop an AI tool that can help predict suicide risk. Working with South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, he analysed a dataset of 1,000 referrals and 12,000 appointments to identify a full range of risk factors. His aim is to create an automated suicide risk assessment for use with mental health patients at first referral that clinicians can use to supplement their own professional judgement.

    Professor Antoniou is also using a similar approach to develop an AI tool able to diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults – an over-looked condition in this age group that can have significant impacts on all areas of life.

    Intelligent diagnosis

    As well as working on individual technologies, the University of Leeds is also developing software infrastructure that can help to speed up the development of AI medtech innovations. Grow MedTech is currently helping Professor Alejandro Frangi with the translation and commercialisation of the Multi-X platform developed in the Centre for Computational Imaging & Simulation Technologies in Biomedicine, and to progress two technologies that have developed through its use.

    The platform can help researchers and clinicians develop medtech AI technologies by providing support at all three stages of the process: the training and testing of machine learning algorithms in the early stage of development, the testing and validating of these using real, large-scale clinical detail and the professional roll out of solutions to clinicians.

    Through the platform, Professor Frangi is developing two diagnostic tools which use machine learning to automate the analysis of medical images to aid clinical decision-making. Using images from cardiac MRI, one tool will help clinicians in the diagnosis of patients with cardiovascular diseases. The other tool will help to identify mild vertebral fractures more easily on X-rays, as these are often missed at an early stage and so left untreated.

    Transferable skills

    Many of the scientists with expertise in AI across our six partner universities are working in areas unrelated to health or medicine. But that’s exactly where Grow MedTech steps in.

    The power of this technology is that it is easily transferable to different fields – for many computer scientists, data is data. What we can do is show them new areas where their skills can be applied and identify the unmet clinical need that their expertise could help to address. We can link them to clinicians or to industry to help them take ideas forward and provide ongoing support. While this includes funding, more importantly it provides dedicated time from our Technology Innovation Managers.

    With so many opportunities created by the marriage of medtech and AI, our role is to ensure our partner universities can maximise those for the benefit of their researchers and ultimately – for patients.

    Dr Luke Watson
    Technology Innovation Manager

  9. Cloud-based monitoring could help prevent stroke

    Grow MedTech is helping researchers at Sheffield Hallam University investigate the market need for a new technology that uses artificial intelligence and ‘Internet of Things’ connectivity to predict stroke risk.

    The stroke risk monitoring service helps cardiologists to diagnose an abnormal heart rhythm, known as atrial fibrillation (AF). This irregular beat can cause blood clots to form which, as they travel towards the brain, can lead to stroke.

    The researchers have developed a smart phone app which relays data from a wearable heart rate sensor to a to a cloud-based AI system. The AI system uses a custom deep learning model to analyse the patient’s heart rate and triggers a warning within five-minutes to the patient’s cardiologist if an abnormal rhythm is detected.

    Because AF is usually an intermittent condition the symptoms can easily be missed – even with regular check-ups. The stroke risk monitoring service provides continuous, real-time automated data collection and analysis which only alerts the cardiologist if a dangerous condition is detected.

    The cardiologist can combine data from the AF monitoring and alerts with their own expertise and interactions with the patient to reach a diagnosis. This approach is, in effect, a hybrid decision-making process, which uses the objectiveness and diligence of a deep learning system with human ability, drawing on a multitude of information sources to help reach the best decision for the patient.

    In the UK more than 100,000 people suffer strokes each year, costing the NHS about £3bn. More than 1.2 million people in the UK have AF and all of these are at risk of stroke. The Stroke Association says that AF contributes to just under 20 per cent of all strokes in the UK, so an early detection system could have clear benefits to both patients and to the NHS. 

    Dr Oliver Faust, lead developer, says: “We want to develop a system that can reduce stroke among these patient groups – in order to reach that goal, we need to develop a business plan and establish important commercial and clinical relationships. This will help us to find out if patients, cardiologists and commercial developers would be open to adopting this innovative approach.”

    The project team includes electrical and embedded systems engineers based in Sheffield Hallam’s Materials and Engineering Research Institute. The team has already been able to show that the system works well using pre-recorded data streams. If the market potential looks positive, they will be ready to take the next step and apply for further funding to test the technology with real patients.

    Through a Grow MedTech proof-of-market grant, the researchers have been able to secure expert advice from a business innovation consultant, as well as project guidance from Grow MedTech’s Technology Innovation team.

    Simon Butler, a Grow MedTech Technology Innovation Manager at Sheffield Hallam University, explains:

    “We want to help researchers think more commercially, to assess potential market size and potential, for example. We’ve brought the project team together with a skilled business consultant with an international reputation in the medical device field. Through this expertise, we’ll be able to help answer these key questions and guide the project’s commercial development. And by doing this at an early stage in the project, we can maximise the chances of success.”

    Through the proof-of-market grant, the team will be able to identify potential commercial and clinical partners, assess the market size and start to discuss the technology with patient groups. Also important will be discussing the system with device manufacturers, to ensure it will work seamlessly within the Internet of Things ‘ecosystem’.

    Says Dr Faust: “Grow MedTech provides the necessary expertise in all these areas and with their support, we can ensure we are developing a service that will bring genuine benefit to both overburdened clinicans and at-risk patients.”

  10. Vacancy: Technology Innovation Officer in Medical Technologies

    Do you have a proven track record of progressing research in medical technologies towards clinical and commercial application? Do you have excellent project management skills? Are you keen to help drive forward the University’s ambitious plans for growth in this area?

    The Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering has significant capabilities that support the development of new medical technologies and these are united under a single gateway – Medical Technologies at the University of Leeds.

    Medical Technologies encompasses a portfolio of research and innovation programmes and projects: the Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge CentreMeDe Innovation (EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Medical Devices); Grow MedTech and Translate, hosted by the Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering at Leeds. The programmes and their underpinning research have grown and sustained a critical mass of medical technologies research and innovation excellence. As a key member of this team, you will contribute towards shaping the strategic research direction of Medical Technologies to maximise research impact and external income.

    Holding (or shortly to be awarded) both a PhD and a Bachelors or Masters degree in a medical technologies- relevant discipline, you will have experience of innovation and translating medical technologies research towards a commercial product.  Working with the Medical Technologies Innovation Team and reporting to the Senior Technology Innovation Manager, you will work with academics from the University of Leeds and universities across the UK to help shape the translation of their research into commercial products that will benefit patients.

    To explore the post further, visit the University of Leeds recruitment page.