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Transforming the dialysis experience

21 June 2023

Dialysis is one of the most challenging forms of treatment for people with kidney failure and we are determined to accelerate improvements. Making the journey through dialysis treatment kinder on patients is the focus of one of our new methods of research funding. Three exciting new projects to improve dialysis have been given the green light to begin work later this year.

First MedTech competition

Our first MedTech competition launched last year, specifically designed to support the use of technology to improve patients’ lives. This new approach to investing in innovative research is designed to help researchers learn the necessary steps to get their products from concept to patients. Seven researchers received funding and support to get their research concepts off the ground. 

Several months on, working with a specialist agency, In-PART, we encouraged scientists, academics, engineers, and technology manufacturers alike to propose their dialysis-related innovations through our 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.  

Three innovative projects spanning wearable technology to online training platforms and safety devices have been chosen to each receive £30,000 helping bring their innovations to the patients that urgently need them.  

Three innovative projects will be funded

A team at Keele University and the University of Bristol will develop 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 develop an enhanced 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 one. 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.  

three male researchers in a lab setting
The Queen Mary team

Alongside academic winners, Edinburgh-based company Javelo Health has been chosen as our first start-up company awardee. Founded by clinician-scientist Dr Ashton Barnett-Vanes, Javelo will develop a model of its patient-worn safety device to improve the safety and comfort of bloodlines for children and young people undergoing haemodialysis.  

This will reduce the risk of a disconnection or dislodgement between the access site and the dialysis machine thereby building patient and carer confidence, and alleviating anxiety associated with the procedure at hospital or home. With the opportunity to personalise and reuse the device, the team aim to support and empower children and young people during their healthcare experience. 

Researchers from all three projects will also benefit from membership of a bespoke academy programme supporting them to take their work even further. This innovative approach offers a commercial and business orientated focus, helping researchers to ensure that their innovations reach patients sooner. 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. 

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.” 

Angela Watt presenting at an event
Angela Watt, retired nurse and trustee

Angela Watt, Kidney Research UK trustee

“My background is as a renal nurse and I worked in haemodialysis care for nearly 20 years. In addition to this, numerous members of my family have had haemodialysis treatment and I have advanced kidney disease myself.  

On the panel, as well as patients, there were professionals working in the renal field and those from a business background, but we all had a link to kidney disease. The event was well organised and everyone was given the opportunity to ask questions of those presenting.  

I was impressed by the range of innovations presented to the panel. 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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