UK Department of Health

The UK Department of Health and the Wellcome Trust are supporting the development of new gene therapies and medical devices to transform treatments on the NHS, through the Health Innovation Challenge Fund.

Using the fund, researchers from Newcastle University, UK, have developed a new system for therapists to monitor patients’ arm rehabilitation and recovery after a stroke, using video games that can be played at home.

The new device will measure the patient’s movements as part of the game and also will enable physicians to continually track their patients’ recovery and adjust therapy programmes accordingly.

"The Health Innovation Challenge Fund helps to speed up the development and adoption of new treatments for NHS patients."

Newcastle University professor Janet Eyre said that enabling therapists to monitor their patients’ progress remotely will improve compliance with home-based therapy programmes, speed up recoveries and free up valuable clinic time.

"Ultimately, therapists will be able to supervise more patients and patients should regain greater independence," Eyre added.

With the support of the Health Innovation Challenge Fund, researchers at Imperial College London have developed a totally automated blood pressure monitoring system that can be used at home to improve the care of patients with heart failure or high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs.

The implantable device will be placed inside one of the patient’s lung arteries to continually monitor blood pressure and transmit the information to an NHS computer using mobile phone technology, enabling healthcare professionals to monitor the patient’s status remotely and modify treatment accordingly.

Currently, the research team is investigating the feasibility of manufacturing reproducible devices and readers in an approved method and, if successful, a proposal will be made to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency for a limited safety and efficacy series of tests in patients by early 2014.

Department of Health chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser Dame Sally C Davies said the Health Innovation Challenge Fund helps to speed up the development and adoption of new treatments for NHS patients.

"It plays an important role by targeting areas of unmet – or poorly met – health needs, in areas where there have been few developments or slow improvements," Davies added.

The fund has also supported the clinical trial for a hereditary type of blindness called choroideremia, using a gene therapy approach.

Mark Walport, Wellcome Trust director, said the close alignment with the Department of Health brings an insight to the challenges faced by the NHS and acts as a stimulus to academia and industry to step up and deliver scalable solutions to prevent, diagnose and treat ill health.

Image: The Department of Health headquarters in Whitehall. Photo courtesy of: Arpingstone.