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Squeezy bottle tech repurposed to cut infection rates

01 February 2017

Engineers have been awarded funding to bring an innovative new, infection-cutting medical device to market.

The funding was awarded by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).

Catheters used in UK hospitals lead to 250,000 serious infections, 3,000 deaths and up to £500m in healthcare costs each year. 3P innovation, a growing, high technology business has been awarded £35,000 funding from the new IET Horizontal Innovation Program for SMEs, which has been launched to fund the transfer of technology from a commercial innovation or product to the healthcare sector so it can be repurposed and commercialised to help solve significant healthcare challenges facing the NHS. 

3P innovation were working on a novel catheter when they realised that a small moulded valve, used by other clients in food dispensers, could be repurposed to solve the problem of catheter associated urinary tract infections. As a catheter valve it can be positioned external to the body, fitting between conventional catheters and urine leg bags. Their award winning concept has been proven in-vitro to significantly reduce catheter infections.

Their new device will provide a welcome add-on to the ‘Foley’ catheter, which is widely used in hospital emergency and intensive care and is the single biggest cause of hospital infections. It also causes reduced bladder muscle tone and long-term incontinence, especially in older patients.

Foley catheters typically become completely blocked by infective material within seven days, whereas 3P’s innovative valve demonstrated no sign of infective material after 14 days. World leaders in the field, the Bristol Urology Institute, carried out these tests and estimates that the results demonstrate that inclusion of the valve could reduce infection of the bladder in UK hospitals by up to 50 percent.

Dave Seaward from 3P Innovation said: “We plan to use the support through this program to develop a production ready design and a manufacturing process for the medical device. Our novel medical device needs to be designed for high volume manufacture. We know that the detail of the product design will impact the ease, speed and costs of scale-up, and thereby the benefits to patients, society and the NHS.

“This is where the Manufacturing Technology Centre is ideally placed to add significant value as they will evaluate the current concept and prototypes, re-engineering the device to provide designs based on commercially suitable manufacturing means.”

Jeremy Watson CBE, IET President, said: “This is a truly innovative solution to a real world health issue and has the potential to bring huge benefits to our healthcare system by reducing infection rates and fatalities.

“The UK is internationally renowned for its creativity, research and innovation, but often technologies or processes can get locked into one sector, an industry, or even one specific company. As an industry and as a society, we don’t generally work together to fully exploit the potential of new technologies – which means that we are genuinely missing out on the rewards that they could bring.

“The IET’s Horizontal Innovation initiative is helping to address the barriers to sharing ideas and ensuring that more of our innovations are used where they are needed, and not just in the sector in which they are created.”

Jeremy Hadall, MTC Chief Technologist for Robotics and Automation, said: “Delivering Horizontal Innovation across sectors is very much a key part of MTC’s remit. 

“So we are proud to be partnering with the IET and its cross-sectorial members to launch this program. 3P will not only have access to the MTC’s highly skilled engineers, advanced manufacturing equipment and business expertise but will in the process be delivering a major step forward in the treatment of patients within the healthcare system which will be of benefit to society as a whole.”

3P’s device has attracted the attention of the NHS's i4i funding arm, which has confirmed it will fund Southampton University, recognised leaders in urological clinical studies, to conduct first in-human clinical trials during 2017-8. 

The development from the MTC will enable that the design and manufacture of the valve is ready to be produced commercially following the successful first-in human trials. This will enable patient and societal benefits to be realised as soon as possible.

This program is the first of a series of collaborations between the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and the IET. The aim is to effectively drive horizontal innovation forward, by reaching out beyond engineering to the people that are experiencing the problems and challenges that engineers are trying to solve, and include them as an integral part of this new initiative.

This announcement was made as industry professionals gathered in central London for the Horizontal Innovation Conference: Realising the value of cross collaboration.

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