SBRI Healthcare has awarded £800,000 to nine pioneering MedTech innovations in the field of Stroke and Technology. The new projects were funded through a nationwide call by SBRI Healthcare in 2021 which attracted more than 79 applications.
Competition 18 invited applications for funding to develop solutions to challenges in Stroke and Technology and sought to address three primary issues: (i) pre-hospital diagnosis, (ii) rehabilitation, and (iii) life after stroke. These challenges were developed in line with the lists of priorities for stroke survivors, carers and healthcare professionals, published by the Stroke Association and James Lind Alliance in the summer of 2021.
The competition, developed in partnership with the Stroke Association, the AHSN Network and the Accelerated Access Collaborative, focused on improving the quality of NHS services in the context of care provided to stroke patients, reducing the prevalence of independent lives lost to stroke by early identification of at-risk groups, and to ensure provision of support which will help patients manage their condition.
The challenges in stroke care are well documented not just in the NHS but globally. Despite many attempts to tackle these challenges, the pressures on healthcare systems continue to grow. The added complications of the COVID-19 pandemic have placed immense pressure on the stroke rehabilitation pathway, from acute to community stroke services.
Despite significant progress globally in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of stroke, there is still great capacity for further improvements.Therefore, stroke care can still benefit from new technologies and solutions that support the population, clinicians, and healthcare systems to reduce the challenges presented and generate better care outcomes.
The newly funded projects aim to bring benefits to patients and care service users through innovations spanning from immersive home-based virtual therapy platforms and point of care testing, to more efficient triage or referrals systems. These also include monitoring platforms, predictive tools to support long-term outcomes and remote vision testing.
The projects will run up to six months and aim to demonstrate whether these innovations are technically feasible, before further funding is sought to develop and evaluate prototypes. The long-term aim is for successful technologies to be adopted for use in the NHS where they can provide benefits for patients, the NHS and the overall community.
Dr Glenn Wells, former Director of Strategy & Planning at UKRI Medical Research Council, now Chief Partnerships Officer at the MHRA noted: “The SBRI Healthcare Stroke competition addressed important areas of need covering the early diagnosis of stroke and strengthening the intensity and outcomes of rehabilitation. The Panel welcomed the breadth of innovations presented and the commitment to address the challenges and thrive to derive patient benefit, ensuring that the technologies can clearly link multidisciplinary teams together to drive better outcomes. We look forward to seeing how these 9 interesting and relevant projects progress over the course of the next 6 months.”
Dr Deb Lowe, National Clinical Director for Stroke, NHS England and NHS Improvement reflected: “It’s great to see the SBRI Healthcare Stroke competition supporting innovation across three crucial areas including helping to increase pre-hospital diagnosis, enhance rehabilitation and supporting stroke survivors to rebuild their lives. These 9 projects offer an exciting glimpse at how technology can benefit patients and support stroke teams to deliver personalised care throughout every patient journey. I’m looking forward to seeing them develop across our Integrated Stroke Delivery Networks.”
Dr Richard Francis, Head of Research at the Stroke Association said: “In 2019 we started a project to learn more about the research priorities of stroke survivors so that future funding can go much further to help people affected by stroke. This funding partnership with SBRI Healthcare addresses the real needs of people affected by stroke and clinicians by being informed by our Stroke Priority Setting Partnership. These ambitious projects aim to get new innovations tested and embedded in health and care systems as swiftly as possible, improving the care of stroke survivors. Improved pre-hospital diagnosis will help ensure people get the right care as quickly as possible, critical for effective stroke treatment as every minute stroke goes untreated, 1.9 million brain cells die. We know people do not get enough quality rehabilitation and long-term care after their stroke, so new innovations are needed to help people make the most of their recovery and rebuild their lives.”
Funding was awarded to the following projects:
Evolv Rehabilitation Technologies – awarded £81,609: Home-based virtual therapy platform to increase therapeutic activity and improve quality of movement for stroke patients.
EvolvRehab is a clinically validated CE marked virtual therapy platform which augments traditional rehabilitation services and improves user motivation and adherence. It uses Virtual Reality, computer vision technology and gamification to provide engaging personalised rehabilitation right in patients’ homes. Evolv will include a new training module to assist stroke patients in improving upper limb movement quality through guided virtual exercises and exergames and remotely provide therapists with key metrics on patient performance and adherence.
Odstock Medical Limited – awarded £53,931: Two-channel neuromuscular stimulator.
Odstock Medical Ltd is developing a new neuromuscular stimulator to help improve walking and arm function for people with partial paralysis. The device will treat people with a wide range of disabilities, helping improve their mobility and independence. The funding will support the company to demonstrate the feasibility of this new neuromuscular stimulator project.
Cognitant Group Limited – awarded £92,129: Providing a coordinated, connected world for stroke survivors and their families through a personalised, digital support package: the ‘My Stroke Companion’ hub.
The aim of the technology is to provide a coordinated and connected world for stroke survivors and their families through a personalised, digital support package: the ‘My Stroke Companion’ hub. The hub will provide high-quality, personalised and shareable information about stroke for patients, carers and family, communicate and explain how the local stroke pathway fits together, and provide a trusted channel for patients to access peer support and local community services.
M-Trust Imaging Limited – awarded £83,312: Pre-hospital stroke diagnosis and triage using full-waveform inversion of transmitted-ultrasound.
M-Trust Imaging are experts in the use of innovative ultrasound technology. The aim of their project is to use this technology to scan the brain of stroke patients and to develop a device that can generate images quickly before the patient reaches hospital and help clinicians diagnose the condition and treat it effectively.
Imperial College London – awarded £100,000: OnTrack Rehab: Translation to practice of a novel digital rehabilitation system after stroke.
OnTrack is a digital rehabilitation platform that helps stroke survivors regain their independence after having a stroke. We do this by supporting patients with meaningful data and motivational coaching. This holistic rehabilitation solution can help reduce therapist dependency and improve self-efficacy.
IbisVision Limited – awarded £71,644: Stroke Rehab Vision testing.
Visual impairment is a major consequence of stroke, yet specialist assessment is often not available in a timely manner. The solution is a telemedicine platform enabling eye-specialists to attend stroke patients via a video and data link so they can be assessed remotely on the stroke unit / in the community. The project will aim to optimise the existing platform so that it can be used by stroke patients with mild to severe impairments and put two exemplar stroke vision tests onto the platform, visual field test and eye movement test, and combine these two tests into a single rapid low-stress assessment.
NeuroVirt Limited – awarded £100,000: Immersive Virtual Reality Games for post-stroke home rehabilitation and clinician monitoring.
NeuroVirt combines immersive virtual reality with in-house hardware to gamify rehabilitation and quantify recovery for stroke survivors, at home or at the hospital. Detailed recovery data can be monitored and physiotherapists can prescribe individualised therapy through the NeuroVirt app.
Medical Data Solutions and Services (MDSAS) – awarded £99,409: MARS – Monitoring Arm Recovery after Stroke
The aim is to improve patient recovery and to provide support to health care professionals in achieving this through adapting MDSAS's proven patient support app for stroke care. It will collect data entered by patients with upper-limb weakness, such as pain levels, degrees of weakness and other stroke-related symptoms. Health care professionals can view the patient entered data in real-time, supporting remote patient management, prioritised early intervention and clinician-patient communication in community and acute settings. Long-term data will build a crucial evidence base for outcome evaluation.
POCKiT Diagnostics Ltd – awarded £99,614: A point-of-care blood test for the pre-hospital identification of stroke patients suitable for emergency thrombectomy treatment.
A rapid portable blood test for the detection of patients with severe stroke due to large artery blockage. The test could allow direct ambulance transfer of patients to regional hospitals for significantly faster specialist treatment, thereby reducing disability and costs. Having previously demonstrated 95% accuracy for large vessel occlusion (LVO) detection using laboratory assays, Pockit will now develop the first portable test product. At the end of the project the intention is to take the product for testing in NHS hospitals before commercialisation and distribution.