Kidney Research UK announces winners of second medtech competition

Kidney Research UK has announced the winners of its second medtech competition designed specifically to advance innovations and discoveries within dialysis.

The research organisation has confirmed that three innovative projects spanning wearable technology to online training platforms and safety devices have been chosen to each receive £25,000 plus training to help bring their innovations to the patients that urgently need them.  

Working with a specialist agency, In-PART, the charity encouraged scientists, academics, engineers, and technology manufacturers alike to propose their dialysis-related innovations through the second medtech competition. A shortlist of projects was put forward to a “Dragon’s Den” style panel of experts, including nephrologists and patients, to select the winners.  

A team at Keele University and the University of Bristol will develop online training and other resources to support decision-making processes for patients who may struggle to do so independently. Dialysis is a daunting and gruelling treatment so choosing the right option is paramount to the patient’s outcomes. Training is also planned across England and Wales, to help create a sensitive approach to supporting families and patients. 

Meanwhile, researchers at Queen Mary University are focused on optimal management of fistulas – access points made by surgeons by joining a vein onto an artery, usually in the arm to create a large, robust blood vessel to connect to the dialysis machine. Prior to each dialysis session, the fistula must be checked to see if it’s working properly; if it is not fully functional, additional surgery will be required to create a new fistula. The team will create wearable technology that can keep patients and staff informed on the condition of the patient’s fistula. The technology will monitor the blood flow through the fistula using a sensor less than a millimetre thick providing quicker, more accurate confirmation that the fistula is still in working order.  

Alongside academic winners, Edinburgh-based company Javelo Health has also been chosen to create new safety lines for children on dialysis that will prevent the connection between the blood vessels and the dialysis machine from being dislodged. With 200-500ml of blood passing through the machine per minute, the risks are high. Life-threatening incidents where the lines are dislodged happen every year, leading to ongoing concern about children undergoing haemodialysis. Javelo Health are confident that their new safety lines will help alleviate anxiety, supporting a more positive experience for children undergoing dialysis. 

Dr Kirsty Frearson, dialysis programme manager at Kidney Research UK said: “Dialysis is still as gruelling and frightening as it was when it was first introduced in the 1950s and new innovations are desperately needed to improve safety and patient outcomes. We are confident that the projects we have chosen to fund will be highly beneficial for patients and help us in our mission to transform treatments for all kidney patients.” 

Researchers from all three projects will also benefit from membership of a bespoke academy programme supporting them to take their work further. This approach offers a commercial and business orientated focus, helping researchers to ensure that their innovations reach patients. Building on traditional grant models, the course supports participants through an introduction to innovation and forming a start-up company, all the way to pitching their medtech project to prospective investors. 

Angela Watt, Kidney Research UK trustee, said: “My background as a renal nurse and working in haemodialysis care for nearly 20 years gave me a good sense of how important these proposals were to change dialysis treatment for the better. I was really impressed by the range of innovations presented to the panel which made the decision to pick the winners quite difficult. Despite some lively discussion we were all in agreement that those chosen for funding provided the best chance of making a difference to renal patients.” 

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.