C2I 2020 Medical & Healthcare shortlist

The runners up in The Engineers’ C2I 2020 medical & healthcare category made breakthroughs ranging from oral medicine and dialysis to low-cost foetal scanning. Andrew Wade reports.  

C2I 2020
Category: Medical & Healthcare

Project: Adhesive Drug Eluting Devices for Unmet Clinical Needs in Oral Medicine
Partners: University of Sheffield with AFYX Therapeutics

Anyone who has ever suffered with a mouth ulcer can attest not only to the discomfort that they can cause, but also how difficult they can be to treat. Wet or mucosal surfaces like the inside of the mouth are uniquely challenging for medicine, as traditional dressings that might be used on the skin simply don’t stick, and hence can’t deliver drugs over a sustained period of time.

Working alongside the University of Sheffield, AFYX Therapeutics has developed an entirely new type of adhesive medical device that can adhere to wet or mucosal surfaces and deliver drugs, opening up a novel stream of treatment for areas of the body that have previously been underserved. The collaboration demonstrated that certain hygroscopic polymers – processed using electro spinning to present a high surface area to volume ratio – were able to take up water at the mucosal surface to form a viscous, adhesive layer. This high surface area also facilitates drug-delivery, with the steroid clobetasol successfully used in a 2020 clinical trial to treat oral lichen planus (OLP), a form of mouth ulcer.

“We are excited by the results of this Phase 2b study…which clearly demonstrated first-of-its kind therapeutic benefit for patients with OLP, a condition for which no approved therapies exist,” said Nishan de Silva, CEO of AFYX Therapeutics.

The collaboration has been a classic synergy of academic and industrial partners, with Sheffield’s state-of-the-art R&D facilities and clinical expertise dovetailing with AFYX’s innovative concepts and commercial nous. Off the back of the collaboration and the successful trial, AFYX has received commercial funding of approximately $20million. According to the partners, wider clinical applications for the adhesive device could include gynaecological treatments

C2I 2020
Category: Medical & Healthcare

Project: Quanta SC+Haemodialysis System
Partners: Quanta Dialysis Technologies Limited with Smallfry

The global dialysis market is valued in excess of $82 billion and there are currently more than 3.2 million dialysis patients worldwide, a figure expected to double within the next decade. SC+ is a new, compact haemodialysis system that allows all dialysate fluid management to be conducted on a small, lightweight disposable cartridge. The user-friendly technology has the potential both to speed up patient changeover in clinical settings and to enable more patients to undergo dialysis at home.C2I 2020 Medical & Healthcare shortlist

The system is the result of a collaboration between medtech company Quanta and industrial design consultancy Smallfry. Having developed the underlying cartridge technology, Quanta needed to take SC+ beyond prototype aesthetics and make it a sleek, consumer digital product that was simple to use and would not be intrusive in people’s homes. Smallfry conducted patient, nurse, care giver and engineer interviews with group discussions to obtain details about what was needed and desired from the machine. The consultancy was in frequent communication with Quanta’s engineering team to align the rational and emotional development goals, without compromising the high standards of safety and risk mitigation required for medical device compliance.

The end result is a versatile device that can treat patients across a range of care settings, from ICU and dialysis clinics, to the home. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, SC+ has been successfully installed in several NHS hospitals around the country. With more patients dialysing at home, the NHS could save in the region of £250m per year by no longer needing to transport patients from home to clinic three times a week. Home dialysis is also frequently associated with improved quality of life and better patient outcomes.

C2I 2020
Category: Medical & Healthcare

Project: A distinctive medical technologies research, innovation and translation system, delivering economic and social impact
Partners: University of Leeds and UKRI, with Medical Technologies IKC, Grow MedTech 

This wide-reaching and highly impactful collaboration is led by the University of Leeds in partnership with the Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre and Grow MedTech. Rather than a specific identifiable project, the collaboration is more akin to a framework for identifying emerging technologies in the healthcare sector, helping them to find private investment and facilitating their commercialisation and adoption.

Since its inception, the project has involved 27 academic research organisation partners, 234 industry/clinical research organisation partners, and a wider network of 928 associate members. The core principles of the system are to bring together research outputs, knowledge, expertise, people and skills from different disciplines and organisations, advancing and de-risking technology at an early stage. This is achieved by undertaking real world simulations and generating the evidence required to enable investments to be made to support new product development by industry partners, ultimately leading to commercialisation.

The translation system has helped deliver 329 collaborative proof-of-concept, technology development and demonstration projects with industry and clinical partners. These include a novel simulation system for joint replacements, the development and commercialisation of dCELL Regenerative Biological Scaffolds, a hydrogel-based dental treatment known as ‘filling without drilling, and the creation of Leeds University spinout Creavo Medical Technologies which developed and commercialised a cardiac magnetometer.

In total, 84 projects have progressed beyond TRL 4 and on to commercial product development with more than 50 different products and services reaching the market. The collaboration has also led to the creation of 45 patents and licenses which have been transferred to industry partners.

HIGHLY COMMENDED
C2I 2020

Category: Medical & Healthcare

Project: TraCer
Partners: University of Oxford with King’s College London, Aga Khan University, MRC Unit The Gambia at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Oxford Computer Consultants

Accurately estimating gestational age (GA) is a key component for providing good pregnancy care, but the tools to do so are not always available in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly outside of urban centres. TraCer (Transcerebellar Diameter) combines low-cost ultrasound equipment with artificial intelligence to improve antenatal care and ultimately help improve pregnancy outcomes.

Led by the University of Oxford, this multi-partner collaboration also includes King’s College London, Aga Khan University, MRC Unit The Gambia at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Oxford Computer Consultants. At the project’s core is a device that consists of an Android tablet, low-cost probe and bespoke interface and analysis software. The system is lightweight, portable and runs on batteries making it suitable for use in rural clinics where there is no reliable electricity supply.

Ultrasound video images collected by the device are fed through an algorithm which takes measurements of the transverse diameter of the foetal cerebellum in order to estimate GA. The initial prototype only facilitates offline analysis, but the next iteration will provide real-time feedback on GA to the operator. Unlike the sonograms carried out in large hospitals, TraCer does not require specific technical skills and can be used by minimally trained health workers. The system even features an inbuilt quality assessment feature to help guide the user to find a good measurement plane, reducing operator error. While it has been developed primarily to address need in LMICs, TRaCer’s functionality could also help decentralise pregnancy care in high income countries, particularly in rural settings.

Index image: desnisismagilov via stock.adobe.com

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