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Published Mon, Dec 14th 2009

Innovative Companies Receive Major Funding To Help Improve Healthcare

Eleven companies working on the development of innovative devices, products or services which will help to meet current healthcare priorities have been awarded funding worth up to £100,000 each.

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The funding programme SBRI East, part of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), was launched by NHS East of England, the East of England Development Agency, and the Technology Strategy Board in April 2009. It is being supported by Health Enterprise East (HEE), the region's Innovation Hub which is managing the competition on behalf of the funding partners. SBRI is also being part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

SBRI East invited companies to submit ideas that can be turned into practical solutions to make a substantial difference in three priority areas: managing long-term conditions, patient safety and keeping children active. All proposals had to demonstrate that they can contribute to achieving a low carbon environment. The Initiative has received support at government level.

Lord Mandelson, Business Secretary, said: "The National SBRI scheme has now been expanded to include other public sector bodies. For example, the East of England Strategic Health Authority and regional partners, have recently completed a competition with TSB backing calling for innovative new approaches to home treatment and long-term patient health. "The level of interest is very high, with 11 SMEs awarded Phase 1 contracts. The proposed solutions were in many cases new and genuinely innovative. And all the more important in the current environment is that the potential savings to the NHS run into the hundreds of millions." Companies being awarded up to £100,000 in Phase 1 have the potential to receive further financial assistance to develop and evaluate projects in Phase 2.

Keith Pearson, Chairman, NHS East of England said: "We have been overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of entries we have received, highlighting the highly innovative work that is happening all around us. "It has been particularly gratifying to receive so many strong entries from small businesses in the east of England; the innovation vibrancy of this region is particularly impressive in these difficult times. Trying to compose a shortlist was an incredibly difficult task for our panel of judges who eventually selected 11 to receive funding in Phase 1. Our congratulations to all of these companies; we look forward to seeing how their ideas develop over the coming year".

Paul May, director of innovation at EEDA said: "We are delighted that this competition to improve healthcare through innovation has been so successful. It is the result of excellent collaboration between regional and national partners to support this important and strong sector in the East of England." "We are the first region in the UK to pilot a Small Business Research Initiative competition, which demonstrates how being the 'ideas region ' is helping drive the economy through to the upturn."

The winners are in three categories:


Keeping Children Active

Eco-Route Ltd has developed a programme to encourage children to cycle or walk to school and to increase their levels of physical activity generally through an approach that involves the whole school. Carbon dioxide emissions are reduced directly through the substitution of motor transport with cycling and walking and indirectly through future healthcare savings.


Managing Long-term Conditions

Docobo Ltd has devised inform@HOME™, an innovative enhancement of doc@HOME remote monitoring telehealth system with decision support to enable individualised, interactive chronic disease management to provide care at home. Docobo supplies the doc@HOME® telehealth remote monitoring service into 30+ PCTs and NHS Trust's, with cohorts of patients with LTC's, mainly COPD and CHF. Significant reductions in admissions, GP/Nurse calls and visits have been seen, but there is a need for consistency in decision making. This proposal involves an innovative enhancement of doc@HOME, by integrating it with Arezzo, a level 3 Clinical Decision Support Solution (CDSS). Arezzo provides interactive LTC management, providing content, recommendations and advice personalised to the patient.


Exhalation Technology Ltd and an associated company have developed a laboratory device to assess the degree of lung inflammation by analyzing a patient's exhaled breath. The project aims to develop a device which can provide a read-out within ten minutes and can be used in a GP's surgery, specialist clinic or at home by patients monitoring their own condition.


Eykona Technologies has identified a substantial and recognised unmet need in the objective measurement and characterisation of wounds such as diabetic ulcers. It is proposing to meet this need through the use of a patented 3D imaging medical device based on cutting edge technology developed in the University of Oxford and consisting of a proprietary camera and software package. The project will deliver hand-held 3D imaging hardware suitable for initial evaluation by clinicians.


Hidalgo Ltd has developed the successful EquivitalTM sensor system, a remote, multi-parameter physiological system, designed for monitoring healthy personnel with a potentially heightened risk of physical injury. The system provides a key building block for the EquivitalTM LiveLink platform, an integrated healthcare monitoring system concept with applications in the home and hospital setting. The system will provide periodic and real time continuous monitoring of the user alongside interpretative presentation of information to the healthcare practitioner and the user.


Sonovia Ltd has developed a novel ultrasonic patch technology for use in therapeutic and drug delivery applications for patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions. The patch approach allows problem areas to be targeted to provide direct therapy from the passage of ultrasound combined with enhanced penetration of active substances such as anti-inflammatories and analgesics. The thin flexible patch will allow simple, safe and effective devices to be used in the comfort of patients' own homes.


Patient Safety

ABMS Ltd and its technology partners have developed an intravenous drug delivery system that integrates the disposable drug container within the delivery device. One of the concerning issues with IV drug delivery is the increasing incidence of 'Medication Errors' that cost healthcare services worldwide many billions of pounds and inflict patient injuries ranging from minor incidents to death. Preliminary concept work has shown that an RFID tag prepared by the pharmacy and attached to the drug container can be read by the device and used for automatic programming, thereby drastically reducing errors in relation to the patient therapy.


Anaxsys Technology Ltd has developed novel-patented technology for multiple applications in the medical field based on the detection of moisture in exhaled breath by a sensitive electrochemical sensor. A Respiratory Rate Counter (R8) for monitoring of respiratory rate in hospitals will undergo clinical trials in January 2010 and further developments of R8 are planned including an ambulance version for use by paramedics and an MRI compatible model. Respiratory rate monitoring gives an early indication of patient deterioration enabling healthcare professionals to intervene early which reduces morbidity and mortality. This technology is also being used in the development of a lung cancer screening device.


Cambridge Design Partnership is developing new technology to reduce the occurrence of Ventilator Associated Pneumonia (VAP) in the Intensive Care Unit. VAP is the most prevalent infection in the ICU, with a 10-15% incidence rate. Thousands of people die unnecessarily of VAP every year in the UK, and the cost to the NHS of treating the condition runs into hundreds of millions of pounds. The new technology aims to fully humidify the breathing air while preventing the colonisation of bacteria.


Oxford BioSignals' technology is founded on evidence-based intelligent algorithms. Applications include patient health monitoring and cardiac safety. The Visensia patient monitoring systems fuse vital signs to deliver a proven predictive assessment of patients' health. At University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre in the 18 months prior to deployment in a step-down ward, there were more than 50 unexpected fatal cardiac arrests; in the 18 months since Visensia was introduced there has been none.The project aims to exploit wireless technology to make Visensia's life saving, real-time monitoring widely available as a low-cost, unobtrusive tool for nurses.


TwistDX Ltd, a molecular diagnostics company, has developed Recombinase Polymerase Amplification (RPA) - an isothermal DNA amplification technology that uses recombinase enzymes and target-specific primers to direct DNA synthesis to defined points in a sample DNA. Benefits of RPA are: point of care application, fast results in ten minutes, sensitivity with single molecule detection, specificity, broad applicability in multiple markets, low instrumentation burden and suitability for storage at room temperature.



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