Ruth Mitchell

North-East scientists leading ?5.5m medical development

North East scientists are to lead a €5.5m R&D initiative for a handheld Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) detection device.

Deep vein thrombosis is a medical condition resulting from the formation of internal blood clots in the calf. If the clot becomes free and reaches the lung, it can lead to pulmonary embolism – an often fatal condition. DVT can occur after prolonged periods of travel on planes, trains and cars. It can also occur as a result of prolonged internet surfing – a condition increasingly referred to as e-Thrombosis.

The European Commission Information Society & Media Directorate General has awarded €3.3 million to a consortium of eleven European research and high-tech firms to innovate a digital, handheld, device for diagnosing DVT and Pulmonary Embolism. This adds to the consortium’s contribution of €2.2 milion, bringing the total R&D investment to €5.5 million.

Leading the consortium will be Cenamps, a national centre for emerging small-scale technologies, based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Helena Biosciences, a medical devices firm based in Gateshead; and the University of Teesside. The consortium includes Haptogen, a leading bio-pharmaceutical spin-out from the University of Aberdeen; the Fraunhofer Institute (Germany); the Pac Cientific de Barcelona (Spain); Claude-Bernard University-Lyon (France); Comenius University (Slovak Republic); Budapest University of Technology & Economics (Hungry); and Universite Paris-Sud (France). AntiCoagulation Europe (ACE), a charity providing information and advice to people on oral anticoagulation therapy, will work closely with the consortium as both advisors and observers.

Medical tests currently used to detect DVT illness in patients at the point-of-care can be unreliable. Healthcare workers are referring suspected patients for expensive diagnostic imaging, with only 20 – 30% of these patients actually being diagnosed with a blood clot. This places a heavy burden on healthcare resources. The mobile phone-sized handheld DVT device promises to revolutionise the speed, accuracy and reliability with which DVT and related blood clot conditions can be diagnosed, and will be able to be used in hospitals, local clinics, A&E departments, doctors’ surgeries, home visits, outpatients and by paramedics on the move.

Blood clots such as DVT/PE are the biggest unexpected killer of hospitalised patients in developed countries such as the UK, France, Spain, Germany, US and Japan. During 2001, the number of reported incident cases of DVT/PE totalled 1.2 million in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, UK, Japan and the US alone. This figure is expected to rise to 1.4 million by 2011.

Shak Gohir, Business and Programme Manager at Cenamps, commented: “We’re extremely proud to have formed and now manage the DVT project, which promises to significantly improve the diagnosis and treatment of DVT and PE. The project is very much part of Cenamps’ remit to bring forward new enabling technologies - for example, through our establishment of a national Polymer Electronic Technology Centre in North East England - and demonstrates its importance to the UK research-base and economy.”

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