UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced a £36.5 million investment in healthcare technology, with £20 million to develop and test treatments and tools using advancements in quantum, robot technology and imaging, and the remaining £16.5 million going towards new digital health hubs across England.
Five projects designed to “create healthcare technologies for the future” are to receive funding, including self-propelled robot endoscopes able to “move seamlessly and carry miniature surgical lasers and powerful tissue analysis”. They are being developed by scientists at Imperial College London and it is hoped that they will be able to find and treat early gut cancer.
In another project, scientists at the University of Oxford plan to “use the exciting new development of micro bubbles as image contrasting agents which can be stimulated using the light of ultrasound”. It is hoped that this treatment could be used to manage diseases including cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and drug-resistant infections.
Elsewhere, University of Strathclyde researchers hope that using digital twins of patients to test procedures and predict outcomes will support then in adapting and personalising treatment for each patient, ultimately helping to “significantly improve patient outcomes and recovery times”.
Scientists at Imperial College London plan to “develop a portable brain imaging ultrasound tool that can diagnose and treat neurological conditions such as stroke”. They will use advanced computer modelling to remove distortions, allowing for a high resolution, high contrast image of the brain to be produced.
The final project sees scientists at the University of Glasgow using developments in the field of methanobiology – the process of detecting very early cellular changes in the body – to develop a way of detecting leukaemia years before cells become malignant.
The digital health hubs, meanwhile, are to “drive the development of innovative digital technologies for healthcare” and promote sharing of knowledge and skills across health, academia and business.
Led by the universities of Bristol, Newcastle, Sheffield, University College London, and King’s College London, the hubs will focus on five key healthcare challenges: antimicrobial resistance; health and care outside hospital and disease prediction, diagnosis and intervention; tackling health inequalities through use of digital; addressing the unmet health needs of underserved communities; and development of technologies such as symptom tracking apps or wearable devices.
Further information on the hubs’ projects can be found here.