Winners revealed for our first ever MedTech Competition!
In an exciting new venture for the charity, we launched our brand-new MedTech Competition back in November 2021 to accelerate the development and availability of transformational technologies addressing the crucial challenges of kidney disease.
We were thrilled to receive more than 25 individual applications from a diverse range of sectors including artificial intelligence, engineering, and wearable technology, all looking to help in the battle against kidney disease. Applicants showed a diversity of ideas, the highest quality of innovation and clearly outlined the positive impacts their research could have on kidney patients.
Twelve projects were shortlisted, and the researchers pitched in a ‘Dragons’ Den’-style assessment to compete for seven prizes worth £30,000 funding including attendance on our bespoke academy programme. We are delighted to announce the seven winners of the competition below!
Dr Sergei Krivov and Dr Stefan Auer, University of Leeds
Acute kidney injury (AKI) is when the kidneys suddenly stop working properly. It can vary from mild to very severe and it is vital that it is diagnosed early. Sergei and Stefan are using artificial intelligence based on routine blood tests to predict which patients will suffer from AKI so that healthcare providers can intervene early and prevent or reduce injury.
Professor Rukshana Shroff, University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health
The tubes most often used to connect children to the machines for life-saving dialysis treatment are called central venous lines (CVLs) and currently, instead of being designed to account for the differences in anatomy and blood flow in a child’s body, they are simply miniaturised versions of those used in adults. This often leads to severe complications that can permanently damage blood vessels. Rukshana and her team are using a bioengineering approach to tailor CVLs to patient-specific characteristics so that dialysis can be performed safely.
Dr Laura Denby, University of Edinburgh
Current methods of monitoring kidney health provide very limited information. Laura and her team are developing a novel method using ultrasound technology to burst tiny bubbles that they have been injected into the patient. This causes kidney cells to release molecules that can report on the health of the kidney, thereby creating a ‘liquid biopsy’. This non-invasive method will allow safe, sensitive, real-time monitoring of kidney health.
Dr Tim Bowen, Cardiff University
If a kidney fails to work straight away after transplant this is called ‘delayed graft function’ (DGF), and currently, the only way to test for this is with a painful and risky biopsy. Tim and his team have discovered that the levels of tiny molecules called microRNAs can predict the risk of DGF. They are developing a simple dipstick probe that detects the levels of these microRNAs in urine samples, providing a quick, safe clinical test for DGF that avoids unpleasant biopsies.
Professor Alan Salama, University College London
Monitoring is really important for people with kidney disease as it allows the opportunity for early intervention if their condition starts to deteriorate. Kidney health can be monitored by looking at a patient’s blood or urine but for most tests, samples currently need to be processed or treated immediately in specialist laboratories. Alan and his team are developing two types of microsampling devices – one for blood and one for urine – which would enable patients to provide samples remotely without having to visit a specialist centre.
Professor Neeraj (Bean) Dhaun, University of Edinburgh
Bean and his team have discovered that people with kidney disease have thinner layers at the back of their eye, and this thinning relates to the amount of kidney damage and can predict decline in kidney function. Bean and his team are investigating ways to scan the back of the eye with the aim to contribute to a community-based kidney disease screening programme as part of the routine NHS eye tests offered by high street opticians so that kidney disease can be detected and treated early.
Professor Maria Grazia De Angelis, University of Edinburgh
The life-saving treatment, haemodialysis, uses a lot of water – approximately 78,000 litres of tap water per year per patient. Maria and her team of engineers are developing a novel technology to capture toxins from the patient and allow the water in the machine to be recycled. As well as improving efficiency, cost, sustainability, and accessibility, this would be a huge step forward in scaling down the size of the machines needed, making wearable artificial kidneys a real possibility.
Marc Stowell, executive director of development at Kidney Research UK, said: “We were highly impressed by the number of innovations, ideas and technologies being proposed. The academy program in itself is an innovative approach that combines scientific potential with a commercial and business-orientated structure. Unlike traditional grant models, the course takes participants through an introduction to innovation and start-ups all the way to pitching their Med Tech project to prospective investors. We cannot wait to see where these projects will lead and the difference they will make.”