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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N02124X/1
Title: A hub for device personalisation in the treatment of congenital diseases
Principal Investigator: Schievano, Professor S
Other Investigators:
Burriesci, Professor G
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Institute of Cardiovascular Science
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2016 Ends: 31 March 2022 Value (£): 1,002,828
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design Engineering Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Nov 2015 Healthcare Technologies Challenge Awards Interviews Panel B Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Between two and five babies in 100 are born with some defects that may require medical interventions. Clinical treatment of physical abnormalities often involves invasive surgery, which can be associated with serious complications, long stays in intensive care, prolonged hospitalisation, and even death. As devices and tools purposefully designed for treating children born with these defects are rare, clinicians often have to make do, adapting adult devices to the child's body. This is due to the small size of the paediatric market compared to the adult population market, but also, more importantly, to the huge variations that are encountered in birth defects compared to the adult world. Children born with the same syndrome present many different shapes and sizes of their physical defect. It is clear that in these cases, and unlike treatment of the elderly, one device cannot fit all.

More effort should be put into the development of new methods and technologies to create suitable devices for paediatric patients. These should be customisable for each individual patient in order to offer the best and safest treatment. Personalisation and bespoke devices are already commonly available in people's life: glasses, dental crowns, foot insoles. Customisation should be even more important and should play a critical role, when the device itself can make the difference between life and death. However, the cost and time demand of their production cannot be met by the biomedical industry, as the research efforts to test each device safety and efficacy are too high. In addition, the bioengineering industry does not have sufficient clinical knowledge and the understanding of different childhood diseases to develop such devices.

I am an engineer by training, but I have spent the last 10 years at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, a recognised world-leading children's hospital and the UK's largest paediatric centre. Here I have gained important knowledge of the clinical environment, birth defects and current clinical treatments. I have good understanding of the engineering technologies and work in close collaboration with the Mechanical Engineering Department (Dr Gaetano Burriesci) for all aspects related to device development and testing. In this project, I am proposing to work as a link between engineers and clinicians, university and industry, to drive the development of bespoke devices and tailored therapies for children and young adults born with physical defects.

I plan to use engineering methods and computer virtual reality to study the shape of the patient defects, and design new devices that can be easily tailored to individual need, on demand. I will create computer models of the defects, as well as virtual simulations to enable development of devices tailored to the specific anatomy of each patient. By studying the interaction between the site where the device is placed and the device itself, it will be possible to determine design changes, and predict device success or failure before the actual implantation, with no need for animal and bench experiments.

The methods I develop during this research project would be applicable to many different devices and technologies designed for treating children in the future. This may ultimately lead to significant reductions in both the number of manufactured prototypes (which will reduce cost of developing new technology) and the number of animal experiments in research work. Furthermore, device failure and other problems are expected to decrease, as we would be practising on patient-specific models before the real procedure, for the first time anticipating problems and adjusting accordingly to avoid them.

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