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Launch date set for brain and spine injury tech research centre

An innovative brain and spinal injury health technology research centre is to open at Addenbrooke’s in April after winning £3m funding, it was announced this week.

In the UK, someone with a brain injury enters hospital every 90 seconds - an increase of 10 per cent since 2005 - and 1.3m people live with traumatic brain injury-related disabilities.

Credit: The United Kingdom Acquired Brain Injury Forum
Image: The United Kingdom Acquired Brain Injury Forum

The annual cost is about £15b based on health and social care needs, lost work, disability, and premature death. This is the equivalent to about 10 percent of the NHS annual budget.

The Cambridge HealthTech Research Centre will bring together NHS partners, business, and patients from across the UK, to develop technologies that improve care while patients are in hospital.

It will also examine innovations that enable patients to live more independently at home, and deliver a dedicated HealthTech Fellowship training programme for health professionals and partners.

The £3m award comes from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and follows a rigorous bidding process to establish a network of 14 HealthTech Research Centres across England.

The Addenbrooke’s-based centre comes thanks to its Neurosciences Department’s record of working with patients, carers and partners and creating a national network of expertise in this area. Its commitment builds on dedicated work by the NIHR Brain Injury MedTech Co-operative (MIC).

NeuronGuard 700 x 393
The CB240_Aurora. Image NeuronGuard

Among the latest Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) working with the new centre is NeuronGuard based in Station Road, Great Shelford, with offices in Italy too.

Its focus is on improvements to Targeted Temperature Management (TTM) – a treatment used to lower a patient’s body temperature to preserve brain function following trauma, stroke or cardiac arrest.

It is developing a system known as CB240_Aurora that is smaller and more portable than current devices and enables TTM treatment in non-hospital settings, such as an ambulance.

Dr Enrico Giuliani, founder of Neuron Guard, said:

We are delighted to be working in in partnership with the new Cambridge HealthTech Research Centre on technology that has the potential to save even more lives.

Dr Enrico Giuliani

Other developments include a “jungle safari” app in collaboration with Animorph Co-op, for children to follow around their ward or hospital site to keep them active, while another, developed by digital start-up Little Journey, offers families information and a virtual tour around the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to make the environment feel less intimidating.

Heading the centre, which will collaborate with nearby hospitals including neighbouring Royal Papworth, will be Professor Peter Hutchinson and Mr Alexis Joannides, who are academic neurosurgeons at Addenbrooke’s.

Professor Peter Hutchinson head and sholulders
Professor Peter Hitchinson

Professor Hutchinson said:

The centre will work with industry, including Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) and local innovation clusters across the UK, to develop new medical technologies and diagnostics. This increases the chance of adoption by the NHS and others.

Professor Peter Hutchinson
Alexis Joannides head and shoulders
Mr Alexis Joannides

Mr Joannides added:

Our new centre will enable us to work effectively with inventors, academics, and clinicians within the UK and beyond to identify, evaluate, and implement meaningful solutions to improve the lives of people affected by brain injury.

Mr Alexis Joannides

They emphasised the importance of listening to patients, and among those appointed as special “public contributors” is Addenbrooke’s patient James Piercy from Norwich, who survived a brain injury.

He said:

The thoughts and understanding of people with lived experience of these conditions is vital to make sure that new developments meet the real needs of people and that research focusses on the questions that matter to patients and their carers.

James Piercy

NIHR assistant director of innovations, Dr Ian Newington, said:

It is no surprise that Cambridge University Hospitals has been successfully designated as a HealthTech Research Centre. I look forward to continuing to support them in this new stage of the journey to help identify and develop innovative new inventions.

Dr Ian Newington

Listing picture by Gerd Altman from Pixabay