UCL PhD students show progress in developing ground-breaking medical devices

Two PhD students, who secured sponsorship from leading medical device designer and manufacturer ITL, have revealed progress on the development of ground-breaking medical devices.

Group shot (L-R) Ian McCutcheon, R&D Manager - ITL, Terence Leung, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Optics - UCL, Chia-Hung Li, PhD Student - UCL, Steve Hope, New Product Development Manager - ITL, Szabi Steiner, Associate Director for Enterprise and Translation - UCL.

Tudor Besleaga and Chia-Hung Li are leading their projects at the Institute of Healthcare Engineering at University College London (UCL) and in January 2015 Ashford-based ITL announced it would be supporting the department and funding the two Medical Device students’ projects.

Mechanical engineering student Tudor is currently designing a wearable medical device that quantifies the risk of sudden cardiac arrest while Chia-Hung is developing a clinical device to monitor nasal blockage.

The students both enrolled on a Doctoral Training Programme in Medical Device Innovation and have been supported by ITL’s experienced engineers. Over the next three years the pair will continue to work on the academic research and all commercial aspects of their devices.

Tudor and his team have set out to develop a wearable unit that is robust, acceptable to the user and trusted by doctors. This could be the basis of a home-centric monitoring system that would be key for the future of healthcare.

His research highlighted that it would be advantageous if heart rate monitors would automatically flag up irregular activity such as arrhythmia episodes or ectopic beats.

Reflecting on the progress his team have made, he said:

We have developed a set of algorithms that we are looking forward to testing in a clinical setting, but first, we must ensure that data is recorded at the highest standards and our bespoke sensing technology would help us to do that.

The ever-increasing adoption of ‘wellness’ devices based on optical sensing techniques has determined us to further improve the existing technology while maintaining versatility in design, and a minimal level of intrusiveness for the user.

He added:

The next stage in development will be using our bespoke technology to target the detection of cardiac biomarkers in people of imminent risk.

By 2018, when he finishes his PhD Tudor intends to have a usable product. Working with ITL will have given him valuable insight into the development lifecycle and ‘real life’ commercial requirements such as regulatory approvals.

His peer, Chia-Hung Li, is the second of the two PhD’s and has been working on a new clinical device that monitors nasal blockage, which can indicate a range of pathologies from the common cold to nasal valve collapse and malignancy.

Tudor Besleaga

The project is headed up by Dr Terence Leung, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Optics at UCL’s Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering and Mr Peter Andrews, Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon and Consultant Rhinologist from the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital and the UCL Ear Institute.

The growing importance of evidence based medicine has led to the increasing need to use objective methods to assess nasal blockage. Although there are a number of well-established objective methods at the disposal of rhinologists, Chia-Hung’s research revealed that most clinicians did not routinely use these methods.

Research results cited accuracy and ease of operation as amongst the most important characteristics for an objective method; and that better correlation with subjective measures reported by the patients, and the ability to assess both nostrils separately but also simultaneously, would most improve upon the existing methods. He will directly apply his findings to the nasal blockage device.

Both students have made substantial headway with their projects and ITL’s involvement has injected a commercial focus into their programme, leading to both students developing working prototypes of their innovations, hopefully taking them from a research idea to the market.

ITL’s New Product Development Manager, Steve Hope, said:

We are really impressed by the progress both students have made at this stage. They are both showing real commitment.

Supporting their work is a privilege and I look forward to the breakthroughs and challenges we’ll encounter together over the next three years.

Further advancements will be shared by ITL throughout the duration of the programme.


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