Over the course of the past year, health has been nudged into the limelight due to the rampant spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it commanded the global news cycle on a daily basis.
But while the worldwide economy suffered, the ripple affect caused by the screeching halt of in-contact interactions, many looked at this period as a time of awakening for people to start actively focusing on their wellbeing.
With the eyes of the world on the health sector, accelerated ingenuity came within the field of medicine, specifically MedTech. Everything from funding, volunteers, and continental collaborations, were drawn up to fight the pandemic.
With COVID-19 spearheading the fight for accelerating MedTech, companies and researchers saw an opportunity to use the attention caused by the pandemic toward both the scientific advantage of medical technology and for the greater cause of helping humanity.
As such, on the occasion of World Health Day, here are some advanced MedTech solutions and initiatives that are picking up traction on the global radar.
AstraZeneca developing tech for heart failure, asthma
Biotechnology company AstraZeneca announced on Tuesday that its currently collaborating with Massachusetts General Hospital to create and clinically validate patient centric advanced MedTech solutions.
According to the company, the collaboration will use AstraZeneca’s new AMAZE disease management platform to study heart failure and asthma management.
“We are incredibly proud to be working closely with Massachusetts General Hospital to utilize this digital platform to close gaps in patient care, ultimately leading to better outcomes,” Ruud Dobber, president of the BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit at AstraZeneca, said in a statement.
The biotechnology company notes that its AMAZE disease management platform uses remote monitoring to identify at-risk patients and deliver insights to the clinical care team at the point of care, all while reducing healthcare costs.
As per the details of the heart failure case study found on ClinicalTrials.gov, patients enter personal information using the AMAZE app, which will feed it into a clinician-facing dashboard embedded within their electronic health record.
Patients will be enrolled in the study after an inpatient heart-failure admission at Massachusetts General Hospital. The organizations say the first two studies are aimed at piloting AMAZE in a real-world setting with the goal of improving patient engagement, care-team communication, and clinical outcomes.
“We believe the AMAZE disease management platform has the potential to transform the current healthcare delivery paradigm for patients around the world living with chronic diseases,” said Dobber.
Following both cases of heart failure and asthma, Massachusetts General and AstraZeneca highlight that they are on looking to expand the use of AMAZE across multiple chronic disease areas to patients throughout and beyond the Mass General Brigham system.
“While there is no precedent for this type of deep relationship, we hope this alliance will serve as a model for future collaboration between pharma and healthcare providers,” said Dr. Peter L. Slavin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital.
UK govt funds domestic MedTech and life science industries
The British government launched on Wednesday a multi-million-pound fund to support the MedTech and life sciences sectors, called the “Medicines and Diagnostics Manufacturing Transformation Fund,” which is designed to the country’s ability to prepare and respond to future pandemics.
“With two-thirds of life science manufacturing jobs already outside London and the South East, the new £20 million ($27.54 million) fund will also open up economic and investment opportunities for manufacturers across the whole of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, improving our domestic supply chains and safeguarding and creating hundreds of highly skilled manufacturing jobs,” a government statement said.
The UK has one of the strongest and most productive health and life sciences industries globally, with a turnover of £80 billion and supporting 256,000 jobs, underpinned by a powerful research landscape and high-quality science base.
“This will not only boost the UK’s already strong vaccine and medicine portfolio but support top quality, local jobs across the country and put the UK in a formidable position to continue responding to the most pressing global challenges of our time,” Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng commented.
COVID-19 advanced MedTech solutions
UK-based healthcare company Medichecks launched a new antibody test to track unique responses to COVID-19 or the vaccine. According to research conducted by the NHS, men reportedly produce higher antibodies levels in response to COVID-19.
Medichecks’ CE-marked finger-prick test can be taken at home and detects antibodies to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2.
According to the company, results are available within two to three days and will identify a figure on a scale of 0.4 to 2500 (units per milliliter). A score of below 0.8 means no antibodies were detected; anything above this shows the presence of antibodies to the virus.
This will allow individuals to track and monitor their antibody levels, which would prove highly beneficial in terms of information on immune responses of different people; the company explained that the test can be done at three-to-four-month intervals, to measure variation.
“What is being learnt about COVID-19’s impact on the immune system is still a moving target, but this test lets people monitor their antibody levels over time. It is not yet known how long immunity, once it has developed, will fade, what level of antibodies provides immunity to coronavirus or at what level re-vaccination will be needed,” Dr. Sam Rodgers, chief medical officer at Medichecks, said in statement.
Manufactured by Roche, the Anti-SARS-CoV-2-S coronavirus antibody test is priced at £69.
Medichecks posts a sample collection kit to customers together with full instructions on how to collect a blood sample in a small vial at home. The sample is then posted to a UKAS accredited laboratory for analysis. The result, accompanied by a doctor’s interpretation, is uploaded to the customer’s online dashboard.
The rise of wearable MedTech
Wearable medical devices have been on the up and up for many around the world, as they take a more serious view within their own wellbeing; in parallel, the manufacturers and big tech companies have capitalized.
According to market research company Mordor Intelligence, the wearable medical devices market was valued at $19,450 million in 2020 and is expected to reach $47,837 million by 2026, registering a CAGR of about 16 percent over the forecast period.
Wearable devices play a crucial role in predicting certain disorders by integrating essential vital signs with clinical symptomology.
For instance, in 2020, researchers at Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute in the United States reported that data from the Oura Ring, a wearable sleep and activity tracker, can be combined with an app that measures vital signs that predict in advance if an individual is likely to develop COVID-19 symptoms.
The device successfully predicted that an individual would experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, fever up to three days before they manifested.
“The wearable medical devices market is growing at a faster pace owing to the rising technological innovations and advancements, as they can improve the lifestyle of general population as well as patient population,” the report by Mordor Intelligence highlighted.
Wearable technologies proffer a convenient mode of monitoring physiological symptoms, featuring a multitude of advanced MedTech solutions.
EU throws weight behind Pfizer-BioNTech and new technology
In a stinging rebuke to pharma giant AstraZeneca Wednesday, the European Union announced plans to negotiate a massive contract extension for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine insisting the 27-nation bloc had to go with companies that had shown their value in the pandemic.
“We need to focus on technologies that have proven their worth,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She also announced that America’s Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech would provide the EU with an extra 50 million doses in the 2nd quarter of this year, making up for faltering deliveries of AstraZeneca.
In contrast to the oft-criticized Anglo-Swedish company, von der Leyen said Pfizer-BioNTech “has proven to be a reliable partner. It has delivered on its commitments, and it is responsive to our needs. This is to the immediate benefit of EU citizens.”
Exacerbating the problems for AstraZeneca, Denmark decided Wednesday not to resume use of its vaccine, after putting it on hold last month following reports of rare blood clots in some recipients. The bulk of the shots given in the Scandinavian country so far have been the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The Johnson & Johnson jab, which uses the same base technology as AstraZeneca, hit a snag this week when U.S. regulators recommended a “pause” in administering Johnson & Johnson shots. Deliveries in the EU have been suspended.
AstraZeneca was supposed to be the workhorse of the EU’s vaccine drive this year — a cheap and easy-to-transport shot to break the pandemic’s back. Yet, the EU said that out of 120 million doses promised for the 1st quarter, only 30 million were delivered, and, of the 180 million expected, now there are only 70 million set for delivery in the 2nd quarter.
Because of that shortfall, the EU has come under crushing pressure as, even though it it is a major producer and exporter of vaccines, it cannot get its vaccinations even close to the levels of the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Our World in Data site said 47.5% of people in the U.K. have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 36.6% in the U.S. and 16.4% in the EU.
Now, Pfizer-BioNTech could well become the key to beat the pandemic on the continent.
With 200 million doses already earmarked for the bloc this quarter from Pfizer-BioNTech. the 50 million additional deliveries will be especially welcomed by EU nations dealing with supply delays and concerns over rare blood clots potentially linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Von der Leyen said the EU will start negotiating to buy 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine through 2023.
“It will entail that not only the production of the vaccines, but also all essential components, will be based in the EU,” von der Leyen said.
The European Commission currently has a portfolio of 2.3 billion doses from half a dozen companies and is negotiating more contracts.
Von der Leyen expressed full confidence in the technology used for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is different from that behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The active ingredient in the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is messenger RNA, or mRNA, which contains the instructions for human cells to construct a harmless piece of the coronavirus called the spike protein. The human immune system recognizes the spike protein as foreign, allowing it to mount a response against the virus upon infection.
Astra Zeneca’s is made with a cold virus that sneaks the spike protein gene into the body. It’s a very different form of manufacturing: Living cells in giant bioreactors grow that cold virus, which is extracted and purified.
Von der Leyen said Europe needs to have a technology that can boost immunity, tackle new variants and produce shots quickly and massively. “mRNA vaccines are a clear case in point,” she said.
The planned negotiations with Pfizer left in the middle what the EU would do about any new contracts with AstraZeneca. “Other contracts, with other companies, may follow,” said von der Leyen.
BRUSSELS (AP) — By RAF CASERT Associated Press
Jan M. Olsen contributed from Copenhagen.
UK NHS Cancer backlog treated by digital tools, says report
A report from ORCHA (The Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps), an NHS partner and a leading authority on health app trends and usage, says that MedTech digital tools can be part of the solution to the backlog in cancer services.
The report adds that patients must be supported by healthcare staff in their choice of apps and be extremely wary of poor-quality tools which could damage their health.
“There are excellent apps or digital tools supporting cancer patients. These have been developed with clinicians, rigorously reviewed and frequently updated. Apps such as these can be embedded into cancer services to provide tremendous support to patients and ease the healthcare system at a time of tremendous backlog,” former NHS clinician and founding CEO of ORCHA, Liz Ashall-Payne, said.
“For example, BELONG, Beating Cancer Together gives users access to oncologists, radiologists and doctors to answer questions and notifies users of available clinical trials around the world. Vinehealth Cancer Companion helps patients monitor their symptoms and track their medication,” he noted.
Around 40,000 fewer people started cancer treatment in 2020 due to COVID-19, putting potential pressure on services for years to come.
“We believe there is massive potential for intelligent apps such as these both to help patients and provide excellent returns on investment to the NHS,” Liz added.
According to ORCHA research, 3,603 digital tools in forms of apps to support cancer can be found in app stores. Worryingly, 74 percent of these have not been updated in the last 18 months. This means the vast majority have not kept pace with medical, data or usability guidelines.
Amongst the apps updated within 18 months, ORCHA reviewed 190 of the most downloaded, testing them against more than 350 health standards and measures including elements of the NICE framework. This diligence revealed that only 24.7 percent of the apps reviewed meet minimum quality thresholds.
Liz Ashall-Payne, said: “These statistics are deeply concerning, given how easy it is for vulnerable patients and care providers to search app stores and stumble across apps which may give poor or outdated advice or blatantly misuse their private data.”
Wearable tech start-up aims to tackle head injuries in sport
An Edinburgh-based business recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help move into production of a technology to safeguard athletes against head injuries.
Based at the Edinburgh Business School (EBS) Incubator within Heriot-Watt University, the technology has been developed by start-up company HIT. The concept is wearable tech which measures and tracks head impact force in sport and recreational activities and is set to aid research and support informed decisions on the risk of brain injury.
Founder Euan Bowen, an avid rugby player, was inspired to develop the technology a teammate was injured. With brain injuries rarely reported, Bowen spotted a gap in the market for sportspeople to track brain health.
Bowen explained: “I found little technology available to monitor head impact, despite the severity of the issue across different sports.
“As a member of a rugby club in Edinburgh, I began researching and developing a project, working closely with the team to develop an initial prototype.”
Featuring a unique impact sensor, wearable across multiple sporting and activity applications, the device universally clips onto any helmet or halo headband, detecting g-force and recording impact via a companion app.
Using a traffic light system, the app records data and acts as an early warning notification for the user regarding the level of impact force recorded – highlighting the caution required in continued exercise.
“High impact sports are focusing increasingly on concussion mitigation with the Field – ‘Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk’ – study recently finding that former professionals are three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than the general population,” Bowen noted.
Kallum Russell, manager of the EBS Incubator said: “HIT Impact is a much-needed technology to track and support the current efforts to increase sports safety at a time when governing bodies across high impact sports are increasingly focused on minimizing head trauma.”
The current parliamentary inquiry into concussion recently heard evidence about the long-term implications of repetitive head trauma on sports people with MPs asking how sports could be made safer.
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