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UK Government announces £10m funding for life-saving tech devices

Written by Wed 14 Feb 2024

The UK Government has announced a £10 million ($12.5 million) funding package for potential breakthrough medical tech devices.

As part of the funding, eight tech companies will be supported to bring their devices to market. The Government said this could help transform the treatment of the biggest causes of death and disability in the UK.

Health Minister, Andrew Stephenson, said one of the Government’s top five priorities is to deliver the latest technology and highest quality care to patients.

“These cutting-edge technologies could help thousands of patients with a range of conditions, including cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s, while easing pressure on our hospitals and reducing healthcare inequalities,” said Stephenson.

The programme is run by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), NHS England, Health Technology Wales, and Scottish Health Technology Group. They will be providing tailored advice on regulatory approval, health tech assessments, and access to the NHS.

Chief Science and Innovation Officer at MHRA, Dr. Marc Bailey, said the Agency is committed to being a regulator that establishes the UK as a centre of medical innovation 

“The pilot criteria prioritise patient needs in all aspects of decision-making and, by supporting innovative medical technologies, will ease pressure on the healthcare system. Most importantly, it’s an initiative which could be life-changing for many patients,” said Bailey.

The funding is part of a new programme called The Innovative Devices Access Pathway (IDAP),  aimed at integrating modern technologies into the NHS. Currently in its pilot stage, the funding aims to facilitate rapid testing of new technologies for widespread adoption.

Director of NICE Advice, Jeanette Kusel, said the Institute’s ambition is to drive innovation into the hands of healthcare professionals.

“We aim to be a trusted adviser, providing tailored advice and supporting businesses along the whole product lifecycle helping them realise their ambition and helping bring the very best of innovation into the NHS and the hands of patients,” said Kusel.

AI and Health Data Device Among Those Selected

The Government selected Lenus Health for its use of artificial intelligence (AI) in predicting patients at risk of hospitalisation for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. The company gathers data from wearable devices, sensors, and apps, leveraging AI to predict patients at higher risk of hospital admissions. This enables more effective monitoring and treatment, easing pressure on hospitals.

The Government has also invested in HistoSonics which is creating a device to identify and destroy liver cancer tumours using focused ultrasound waves. The device can potentially reduce hospital visits and post-procedure complications, and make pain management easier.

Roche Diagnostics has developed the Amyloid Plasma Panel, a blood test which could help clinicians if patients with cognitive impairment should undergo tests or imaging to confirm Alzheimer’s Disease.

Upfront Diagnostics was chosen due to its device which could enable ambulance workers to instantly identify stroke cases through a portable blood test. This will ensure patients are swiftly transported to comprehensive stroke centres for immediate treatment.

EarSwitch device offers an alternative to oximeters, which are commonly clipped onto fingertips to assess lung and circulatory function. Traditional oximeters may not accurately detect falling oxygen levels in people with darker skin tones. EarSwitch’s technology measures oxygen levels from the inner ear canal, which is not pigmented, potentially providing more accurate readings.

Other recipients include Avegen who has developed a smartphone app that delivers exercises, cognitive behaviour therapy, and targeted physical activity to help patients manage Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

52 North Health will also see part of the investment. The company has developed a device to allow chemotherapy patients to self-test at home using a finger-prick blood test for neutropenic sepsis. This is a life-threatening condition in patients whose immune system is suppressed.

The final recipient is Presymptom Health, which has constructed a test and algorithm to forecast infection status in Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) up to three days before traditional diagnosis methods can detect it.

“We will be working closely with our partners to support those companies selected for the pilot so that more game-changing, life-saving technologies are introduced quickly and safely on the NHS,” said Vin Diwakar, Interim National Director of Transformation at NHS England. 

UK Health Tech Investments

The investment forms part of the Government’s plan to ensure the NHS and its patients can get quicker access to new technologies. It followed the Government’s strategy for boosting NHS medtech and turning innovation into benefits for society.

In November, NHS staff voiced an urgent need for substantial investments in health tech to combat increasing wait times for diagnoses and treatments.

This call for action follows a new research study by BT, which highlights a strong consensus among NHS employees on the potential of digital innovation to improve healthcare services. The research indicates that 74% of NHS staff consider future tech investments a priority.

In the same month, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled a £100 million investment ($121 million) to advance healthcare with artificial intelligence (AI). The investment will be channelled through the AI Life Sciences Accelerator Mission, which will utilise the UK’s strength in secure health data and AI.

The funding will assist the Government in investing in areas of the UK with the greatest clinical needs. The investment will test and trial new technologies in the next 18 months.

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Written by Wed 14 Feb 2024

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