1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.”

  5. 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.

  6. Full 2019 funding call calendar announced

    The full calendar of Grow MedTech funding calls running throughout 2019 is now live.

    Alongside the monthly recurring Proof of Market (£5k) call, medtech innovators in the Leeds and Sheffield City Region have two additional opportunities to secure up to £20K for Proof of Feasibility, and one opportunity to secure up to £80k for Proof of Concept before 2020.

    See the full calendar below:

    Proof of Market (£5K)

    With no hard deadlines for Proof of Market applications, forms are reviewed monthly and should be submitted by the 15th of the month for review in that month’s review meeting.

    Application deadline wave #4 5pm 15 April 2019
    Application deadline wave #5 5pm 15 May 2019
    Application deadline wave #6 12pm 15 June 2019
    Application deadline wave #7 12pm 15 July 2019
    Application deadline wave #8 12pm 15 August 2019
    Application deadline wave #9 12pm 15 September 2019
    Application deadline wave #10 12pm 15 October 2019
    Application deadline wave #11 12pm 15 November 2019
    Application deadline wave #12 12pm 15 December 2019

    Proof of Feasibility (£20K)

    Application deadline wave #3 12pm 18 April 2019
    Application deadline wave #4 12pm 5 July 2019
    Application deadline wave #5 12pm 9 October 2019
    Application deadline wave #6 12pm 10 January 2020

    Proof of Concept (£80K)

    Call 2 Opens 9am 5 April 2019
    Call 2 Expression of Interest deadline 12pm 3 June 2019

    To stay up to date with information on funding, events and support available for medtech innovators in the region, sign up to our mailing list here.

    About the funding

    All three calls have been developed with the aim of accelerating and enhancing innovation in all sectors of medical technologies and medical devices with significant commercial potential and patient benefit.

    Through our funding competition and regional networks, we support the development of medical technologies that are better aligned to patient needs” says Danielle Miles, a Technology Innovation Manager for Grow MedTech.

     “Involving people living with conditions throughout the innovation process not only maximises end-user benefit, but it validates the commercial potential of new technologies in a way that attracts future investors”.

    To learn more about eligibility, the application process, assessment criteria and guidelines for any of the three funding calls visit Grow your idea page.

  7. Deadline extended for Proof of Concept funding applications

    The deadline for Stage 1 Proof of Concept Expressions of Interest (EOI) submissions has now been extended, with completed EOI forms to be emailed to info@growmed.tech by 5pm 28 February 2019.

    Our Proof of Concept funding supports projects in demonstrating full technical and commercial feasibility through co-development with end users.

    Applications are invited from academic led teams who are based at one of the six Grow MedTech partner universities. The Proof of Concept awards provide funding of up to £80,000 to projects which fit with the award scope.

    This funding should be used to advance technologies through proof of concept stage towards commercialisation to build confidence for further investment.
    All applications must be co-developed with a Grow MedTech Technology Innovation Manager (TIM).

    To learn more about each of our different TIMs, where they’re based and how their professional experience and network can support your project; view their profiles on our key contacts webpage.

    You can learn more about the award eligibility, application process, assessment criteria and deadlines for the Proof of Concept funding call on our Proof of Concept webpage.

  8. We are hiring: Business Development Executive (Health & Digital Medical Technologies)

    We are recruiting a Business Development Executive to join our Business Development Team at Leeds Beckett University.  This role will focus on support of the Grow MedTech partnership which is a collaborative initiative involving 6 Yorkshire Universities and has been created to enhance productivity and economic growth in the UK medtech sector, addressing the evolving health needs of the population.

    Candidates should have experience in supporting the commercial development of collaborative project development preferably in either a clinical bioscience or digital setting. A working knowledge of IP protection and exploitation and a demonstrable ability to support in coordinating collaborative project development and funding applications are also required.  A clear record of successful project management and delivery in collaborative programmes is essential.

    In this exciting new role, based at Leeds Beckett University, you will work closely with academics, the NHS, medical technology companies and the team of Technology Innovation Managers across a wide university partnership to assist new opportunities to progress to the commercial market.

    Opportunities are expected to arise from the areas of key medical technology which include implantable devices, imaging and diagnostics, rehabilitation and assistive technology, surgical and medical equipment, wound-care and infection control, digital health, ICT and E-health and evaluative and enabling technologies.

    The post will be positioned within the Business Development Team within the Research & Enterprise Service.

    Closing date: 3 December 2018 (Midnight)

    Interviews will take place in early January 2019.

    To arrange an informal discussion about this post, please contact Dr Julian Sorrell at j.a.sorrell@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

    Find out more

  9. Grow MedTech keynote speaker announcement

    The Grow MedTech launch event will be headlined by Dr Victoria Betton, founder of mHabitat who will join us in Leeds to present her talk ‘Human-Centred Design and Digital Convergence’.

    Dr Victoria Betton and mHabitat

    Dr Victoria Betton is an accomplished academic, entrepreneur, author and owner of Bibi the Pets as Therapy dog.

    Dr Betton undertook her PhD studying mental health and online social networks at the Institute of Communications Studies in the University of Leeds. Her research explored the relationship between institutions such as mainstream media and healthcare with mental health stigma and discrimination.

    During her PhD Dr Betton founded mHabitat, initially as a small project to scope the value of digital technologies across two NHS Trusts in Leeds.

    The scope of mHabitat’s goals quickly expanded to bringing patients, citizens and practitioners together with digital innovators, health tech companies and academia to design, develop, deploy and evaluate digital tools that really make a difference.

    Since mHabitat’s founding in 2014, they have gone on to foster many highly successful collaborations between digital innovators, charities, NHS and government bodies throughout the UK.

    Dr Betton is regularly invited to speak and inspire audiences fascinated with healthtech, technology innovation and the links between digital technology and mental health. As such, her insights into motivating collaboration in the context of user centered design are set to inspire our audience in the potential of digital convergence opportunities.

    To register your place at the launch event, please visit the event webpage.

  10. Grow MedTech call: Apply for up to £80k funding

    De-risking and converging medical technologies call

    Businesses, researchers and clinicians working in fields linked to medical technologies are invited to apply for proof-of-market, proof-of-feasibility and proof-of-concept funding.

    Grow MedTech is a new program that supports medical technology innovation in the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions and looks to fund projects that advance the development and de-risking of technologies in order to make them more attractive for further investment.

    These three calls have been developed with the aim of accelerating and enhancing innovation in all sectors of medical technologies and medical devices with significant commercial potential and patient benefit.

    Tangible links with industry and the clinical or healthcare sector are encouraged: “Our funding competition gives companies an opportunity to collaborate with academia and access world-class expertise,” says Danielle Miles, a Technology Innovation Manager for Grow MedTech.

    It also allows academics to translate their research into significant clinical impact by leveraging industry connections. We’re urging companies to get in touch if they’re interested in the potential of medtech.

    To learn more about the application process, assessment criteria and deadlines for any of the three funding calls visit Grow your idea page.