£9million fund to speed commercialisation of leading healthcare technology projects

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Nine researchers working on innovative projects that promise to improve healthcare diagnosis and treatment have been selected as recipients of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Healthcare Technologies Challenge Awards.
The projects range from smart wound dressings that incorporate sensors, to tools that improve imaging, diagnosis and drug delivery to treat cancers.

The award winners, who will share in a £9million fund, will work with clinicians, companies and charities to speed the translation and clinical adoption of their innovations.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman said: “These award winning projects are great examples of how interdisciplinary collaboration can achieve game changing results. By linking patients, technologists, clinicians and scientists, new tools and techniques to improve healthcare can be truly innovative – which is why the UK is a world leader in life sciences.”

EPSRC’s chief executive Professor Philip Nelson added: “These Award winners are our future research leaders, who will be instrumental in ensuring the UK can meet the 21st Century healthcare needs and thrive as a healthy nation.”

Dr Ruchi Gupta, pictured, from the University of Hull has been selected for work on smart dressings for wound management. According to Dr Gupta, the incidence of chronic wounds is predicted to increase due to lifestyle changes and an ageing population. “Standard dressings do not provide insights into the status of the wound underneath and are often changed, which hampers the normal healing process, causes stress and pain to patients, consumes a significant amount of healthcare professionals’ time and contributes to spiralling costs.

“This research will develop a smart dressing with an array of sensors for monitoring wounds' status to facilitate rapid healing while reducing costs.”

Meanwhile, Adrien Desjardins from University College London is working on all optical pulse echo ultrasound imaging for real time guidance of minimally invasive procedures.

“Conventionally,” he said, “ultrasound is transmitted and received electrically. In this project, ultrasound imaging is performed optically, using inexpensive optical fibres. The ultrasound probes, developed in close collaboration with clinicians, will be the first to provide real-time optical ultrasound imaging.

“Integrated into devices such as needles and catheters, they will provide imaging from within the human body that was previously unavailable. There is strong potential to improve patient outcomes in a wide range of clinical contexts.”