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Innovators look to improve young lives

Three Yorkshire and Humber companies have received funding to help them develop innovations that support self-care and independence in children with long-term conditions.

The companies – ADI Ltd of Leeds, Elaros Ltd in Sheffield and Viamed Ltd based in Keighley are among nine chosen to share a total of £900,000 funding as a result of the latest Small Business Research Initiative for Healthcare (SBRI Healthcare) competition.

This competition was delivered in partnership by the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and the Technology Innovation Transforming Child Health (TITCH) Network on behalf of SBRI Healthcare, an NHS England initiative led by the country’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks.

The Yorkshire & Humber AHSN and TITCH are looking forward to supporting the three regional winners.

With six per cent of children in the UK living with disability, ingenious life changing solutions can ensure they have the best start in life.

The successful technologies recognise the importance of encouraging independence and focus on restoring function and providing appropriate support for self-care and remote monitoring.

The innovations also address a key challenge in developing technology for children and young people associated with growth and development. They have been judged to be age specific, versatile and adaptable to meet rapid physiological and anatomical changes.

Philippa Hedley-Takhar, Head of Investment & Partnerships for Yorkshire & Humber AHSN commented: “Children and young people with long term conditions spend much of their childhood in healthcare environments. This competition was designed to stimulate development of solutions to improve quality of life, promote independence and individual empowerment identified as a much- needed area of focus from families, young people and clinicians.”

Professor Paul Dimitri, Clinical Lead at TITCH said: “TITCH is a national network that has developed an approach to paediatric innovation to address the problems associated with the niche and often neglected market for technology in this field. The number, diversity and quality of applications received demonstrate the level of commitment to ensuring the best healthcare for children and give them the best opportunities in the future.”

Steve Nixon, Director at Viamed, said: “We are delighted with the SBRI Healthcare award  and the opportunity to make a real difference, by delivering solutions that should improve the quality of children’s  lives.”

Prof Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of Elaros, commented: “The Board and staff of Elaros are delighted to have won this prestigious competition, which comes as the company starts to develop other products to address unmet clinical needs in areas that have not yet seen the application of the power of digital health.

“We are excited to be embarking upon this important project with our partners at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, the Children’s Sleep Charity and Dr Michael Boyle and believe that our proposed solution will make a significant difference to the lives of families blighted by sleep difficulties. Through the empowerment of families, the Sleep Diary Partnership, led by Elaros, believes that significant saving will be achieved for the NHS through the deployment of our digital solution that will be free at the point of use.”

Representatives from the Nottingham Young Person’s Advisory Group (YPAG) were part of the selection panel and offered great insight into if, how and why children would use the proposed devices.

Afterwards group representative Anmol Landa commented: “I was thrilled when I heard about the opportunity to be on the funding panel as it gives me a great chance to give my opinion on innovations designed for young people on behalf of young people across the UK. Of course I was eager to volunteer, not only because I could represent young people nationally but also because it would broaden my insight into the processes involved in introducing a medical innovation into a health care setting.

“At YPAG we mainly work with researchers when designing the product or study so it was very motivating to see how what we do with researchers increases their likelihood of receiving funding. I believe it’s common sense to have young representatives on the panel when assessing paediatric innovations as they are made for young people. It is too common a predicament when adults say ‘we work with children so we know’ and then produce a produce that is impractical for young people. Having young people on the panel gives another perspective when assessing the innovation as we sometimes pick up on certain aspects adults look over or deem less important.

“Throughout the whole experience, what I enjoyed most was having the opportunity to give my opinion. The other representatives on the funding panel were friendly and really considered what we said. Our research facilitator initially briefed us saying there was no pressure to contribute to every case but it turned out we had something to say for all of them.”

With awards of up to £100,000 each, the successful companies (and supporting Academic Health Science Networks) are:

  • Restoring Function: ADI Ltd (Yorkshire & Humber AHSN), Open Bionics Ltd (West of England AHSN) and Project Andiamo Ltd (UCLPartners)
  • Self-Care and Remote Monitoring: Spirit Healthcare (Eastern AHSN), Elaros Ltd (Yorkshire &Humber AHSN), Innerstrength (Ireland), Therapy Box Ltd (Health Innovation Network), Viamed Ltd (Yorkshire & Humber AHSN) and XIM Ltd (Wessex AHSN)

SBRI Healthcare is an NHS England initiative, led by the country’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), that co-develops innovative products to address unmet health needs

The programme works with leading healthcare players to identify areas where technology can be applied to address major healthcare challenges. The nine successful projects have been selected on their potential value to the health service and on the improved outcomes delivered to patients. The companies will be supported and fully funded to demonstrate the technical feasibility of their proposed concept for a six month development phase. Those businesses demonstrating best value and greatest technical feasibility at this stage (phase 1) will progress through (phase 2) to be further supported and funded to take their technologies through to commercialisation.

 

About the winners

ADI Ltd www.adi-uk.com

Let Me Show U! (LMSU!) is a product to help physically disabled children explain to new carers the best way to address the child’s physical challenges. Built up over time within a secure personal health record controlled by the child and family, LMSU! uses digital media which is specific to each child, including videos, animations, audios, etc. Media snippets can be accessed at any time by the child or carers via apps running on standard phones and tablets.

Elaros Ltd www.elaros.com

The project proposes a pioneering approach to support self-management and clinical decision making in primary care, aligned to better utilisation of limited resources in secondary care. Building upon existing technology, Elaro is creating an app designed to take the young person on a journey that will either help resolve their sleep challenge, where this is linked to lifestyle, or point to more challenging sleep disorders (and evidence this) where specialist intervention is required.

Viamed Ltd www.viamed.co.uk

Many paediatric long term conditions such as severe asthma, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart defects, and neonatal lung conditions, can lead to severe morbidity or death if oxygen saturation levels are not monitored and appropriate action taken. There is currently no optimised solution to monitor oxygen levels in children. As a consequence, there is a high level of referrals to secondary care and emergency admissions. Viamed is developing a wearable, self-adjustable wireless probe with paediatric software algorithms that can be used in both children and adults.

Open Bionics Ltd www.openbionics.com

The provision of prostheses for children and young people is complex, reflecting the changing size, diversity of activities, as well as early social and psychological development of this cohort. The critical concerns are that care promotes independence, is tailored to the individual, and complements the needs of the child by maximising choice. Currently, this process is restricted due to cost and increased demand on limited NHS resources. Open Bionics looks to address these concerns through the provision of affordable, multi-grip, robotic prostheses for children and young people with upper limb deficiencies.

Project Andiamo Ltd www.andiamo.io

Spinal deformities are very common in children and young people with cerebral palsy which can lead to the torso requiring support. Traditional manufacturing is slow and can be distressing, often resulting in poorly fitting supports. Andiamo provide 3D-printed orthotic services and is adapting its innovative technology to create a back brace service-pathway for children with spinal deformities to assist and restore function. The service will be the first of its kind and has potential to revolutionise quality of life for children and young people by reducing the need for surgery, increasing mobility, independence and restoring function.

Innerstrength www.tickerfit.com

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is one of the UK’s most common, life-shortening, genetically inherited diseases. There are currently more than 10,500 people. In the last 50 years there have been major advances in care; however each new therapy has added the heavy burden of treatment. The aim of this project is to investigate if a new model of care has the ability to engage children and adolescents with CF in self-management and as a result, reduce the burden of care.

Spirit Healthcare Ltd www.activ8rlives.com

Working with the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Guys & St Thomas’ and Sheffield Hospitals, to co-design and further develop Aseptika’s Activ8rlives’ technology to support children with asthma and other long-term conditions such as diabetes. Self-care and remote monitoring capabilities will be extended, and the FingerBandSpO2 miniaturised blood oxygen monitor (worn continuously on small fingers or around baby’s foot) further developed to enable Respiration Rate (one of the 5 Key Vital Signs) to be recorded as part of the National Early Warning System.

Therapy Box Ltd www.therapy-box.co.uk

Children with severe speech impairments are often provided with communication aids to compose messages which are then spoken using synthesised speech. However, these aids can be slow, tiring to use and do not promote natural communication due to the lack of eye-contact and the time taken to compose messages. Therapy Box will address these problems by producing VocaTempo, a new, app-based voice-input communication aid, which will recognise words spoken by a child with severely impaired speech and speak out a clear version of the message, making it easier, faster and more natural to use than current communication aids.

Viamed Ltd www.viamed.co.uk

Many paediatric long term conditions such as severe asthma, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart defects, and neonatal lung conditions, can lead to severe morbidity or death if oxygen saturation levels are not monitored and appropriate action taken. There is currently no optimised solution to monitor oxygen levels in children. As a consequence, there is a high level of referrals to secondary care and emergency admissions. Viamed is developing a wearable, self-adjustable wireless probe with paediatric software algorithms that can be used in both children and adults.

XIM Ltd www.xim.ai

Developing ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’, a platform for frequent, passive and contactless vital signs measurement in children with asthma aged 10+ who have been identified by the GP as being at risk of unplanned hospital admission. Taking the form of a mirror, it has the ability to collect five vital signs (heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, SpO2 and blood pressure) whilst a child is performing everyday activities. Data dashboards can be stored and transmitted to healthcare professionals for immediate response and long-term monitoring.

About SBRI Healthcare www.sbrihealthcare.co.uk

The Small Business Research Initiative for Healthcare (SBRI Healthcare) is an NHS England initiative, led by the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), whose role is to promote UK economic growth by spreading innovation and best practice across the NHS. Winners receive fully funded development contracts between the awarded company and NHS England to meet known healthcare need.

Generally taking a three-phased development approach, projects start with a 6-month feasibility phase and can then move on to more detailed product development. Phase 1 contracts for feasibility testing are valued at up to £100,000 and last for six months. Phase 2 contracts for prototype development are worth up to £1 million over one year. Phase 3 contracts are intended to accelerate product adoption, with up to a further £1 million over 12 months, providing the opportunity for validation in NHS settings. While the public sector has the right to license the resultant technology, its intellectual property (IP) remains with the company, thereby enabling successful businesses to grow.

SBRI Healthcare supported companies are already making an impact; Owlstone Medical was recently awarded Invention of the Year in Top 50 Digital Health Awards for its breathalyzer for disease and PolyPhotonix named in Top 50 North East Tech companies as it tackles the causes of diabetes-related sight-loss with an LED sleep mask.

About Technology Innovation Transforming Child Health (TITCH)

TITCH is a national NHS network who has developed an approach to paediatric technology and innovation to address the problems associated with the niche and often neglected market for technology in this field. The network provides a platform for the essential multi-stakeholder relationships required to ensure that the very best products are developed for the benefit of children and families. Working closely with the NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Cooperative (D4D) and using an established model, the TITCH network stimulates innovation by working cross-sector to identify, validate and address unmet needs, drawing on appropriate resources across the network from industry, academia, clinicians and patients.