Five new proof of concept projects awarded funding from Versus Arthritis


Five new proof of concept projects awarded funding from Versus Arthritis

Date: March 4, 2021

The IKC and Versus Arthritis have awarded 5 new proof of concept projects for funding of up to £100k, to accelerate innovation in the treatment of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions.

The IKC’s technology innovation managers will support these projects for the duration of the funding (up to 2 years), aiming to progress to the next stage of development towards clinical use.

Versus Arthritis is the biggest funder of research into the cause, treatment and cure of all forms of arthritis in the UK. The long-standing partnership with the Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre provides access to expertise in product development, speeding up route to market and reducing the risk of late stage failure. You can read more about our partnership with Versus Arthritis on our charity partnership page or case studies on our previously funded projects on our case studies page.

From monitoring arthritis at home, to enhancing bone tissue regeneration, these medical devices have the potential to change the lives of patients with MSK conditions.

The new projects awarded include:

System for kinematic assessment of painful knees with ultrasound imaging – Dr Stephen Mellon , University of Oxford

Pain around or behind the kneecap (patella), is a common complaint in many populations, including after knee replacement. Some research suggests that the path the patella takes when the knee bends (flexes) is altered by surgery. The extent to which this path has been altered is considered to be the cause of significant pain around or behind the patella in some cases. How common this issue is, is unknown because no formal method of its assessment is available in current clinical pathways. A robust and reliable method for doing quick assessments of the patella path would be a huge improvement on current practices. The patella path can be measured using ultrasound (US) imaging in combination with a system that orientates the US images to their location in three-dimensional space (motion capture system). This project will develop methods and software to help make these assessments available in the clinic.

Pre-clinical investigations of Innovative medical devices based on peptide-enhanced calcium phosphates for enhanced bone tissue regeneration – Prof Cheryl Miller, University of Sheffield

When repairing bones, surgeons may need to fill large defects with the patient’s own bone taken from other sites, a synthetic or animal derived bone filling material, or a mixture of the two. Although the patient’s own bone provides the best chance of success, it is not suitable for all individuals as it requires good availability of healthy bone and multiple surgical sites for bone harvest. This project is aimed at developing develop a novel synthetic regenerative bone graft substitute that is as effective as the patient’s own tissues for promoting bone healing. It will achieve this by presenting peptides that stimulate bone regeneration, mimicking what occurs in natural healing. This novel bone filling material can be produced at a fraction of the cost of other biologically active molecules, and offer a safer and more predictable response in the host.

Non-surgical joint distraction orthosis to treat thumb base osteoarthritis - Mr Matthew Gardiner, University of Oxford

Worsening joint stability and excess forces are major causes of osteoarthritis. Joint distraction is a joint preserving technique, in which the two bone ends are slightly separated. This reduces the forces through the joint and returns it to a more normal environment. Recent surgical knee joint distraction studies have shown improvements in patient outcomes and a much reduced need for joint replacement surgery. The novel orthosis being developed in this project aims to revolutionise treatment of thumb base osteoarthritis and reduce the need for patients to undergo invasive and costly surgical procedures.

Development and evaluation of a medical device to monitor arthritis patients at home – Dr David Gibson, Ulster University

People with inflammatory arthritis have painful, stiff and swollen joints and experience ‘flares’, or episodes where their symptoms worsen. These are more frequent when treatments aren’t working well and doctors need to identify flares to reduce joint damage, pain, disability and associated problems. There are few user-friendly methods to safely and reliably collect blood samples to monitor flares in people with arthritis whilst they are at home. This is of particular importance with current COVID-19 restrictions and reduced access to clinical care. The purpose of this project is to develop and evaluate a blood collection device, which can help to monitor the condition of someone with arthritis at home.

Long-term intraarticular delivery of glucocorticoids from novel particles – Dr David Gould, Queen Mary University of London

Glucocorticoids (GCs) are very effective for the treatment of inflammation and pain in arthritis. When delivered around the patient’s body they can cause multiple side effects with continued use. However, the ability to deliver them directly to affected joints permits their beneficial local effects largely in the absence of any systemic adverse effects. Unfortunately, the beneficial effects of GCs delivered into arthritic joints do not persist much beyond a few weeks or months because of ‘burst’ release upon delivery, where a large proportion of the drug that is delivered to the joint is rapidly released and cleared so that insufficient remains to have long-term effect. The aim of this project is to develop an improved delivery system with steady release so that prolonged GC effects in joints are achieved.

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