Superbugs in the firing line as new products take a step closer to the ward

Superbugs in the firing line as new products take a step closer to the ward

01 Oct 2010

The Technology Strategy Board, in association with the Department for Health (DH) and its Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) programme, awards development contracts to five exciting new innovations in the fight against hospital superbugs.

Five small UK businesses have accepted development contracts worth a total of £1.7 million in the second phase of a competition focused on finding solutions to the problem of hospital acquired infections (HAI) in the UK. 

The SBRI competition, supported by the Technology Strategy Board, enables the production of technologies that have the potential to revolutionise the fight against HAI. From a new method of pathogen detection to a plasma hand sterilizer and an automated hand wash system, these technologies offer real solutions to a difficult problem for hospitals around the country.

David Bott, Director of Innovation Programmes at the Technology Strategy Board, said:

"In September 2008 the Health Protection Agency published results showing the NHS had met its 50% government reduction target as compared with the 2003/04 baseline levels. Although these figures are very encouraging it is clear that we need to keep one step ahead of these superbugs. 

"They are constantly evolving new ways to survive the measures we have in place so we need to invest in new technology that can control them. That's exactly what this SBRI funding has enabled us to do."

The Department of Health decided on the parameters of the submissions to the SBRI run competition. These focused on the two problem areas of hand hygiene and pathogen detection. 53 ideas were submitted to SBRI with 13 companies making it through to the first feasibility phase. Four projects are now entering phase two which will see three products developed for clinical use and the commercial market over the next two years. Three of these projects are detailed below.

Pathogen Detection

Universal Sensors, a technology development company, has developed a handheld, polymer based biosensor device. The PathGenFinder  is able to detect the smallest amount of dangerous pathogens (just one microbe in a cm²) on a hospital surface and can run up to 10 tests simultaneously.

This portable technology has been developed in consultation with nurses, providing a new approach to cleaning evaluation and allowing for a faster assessment of ward cleanliness. This small piece of highly innovative technology has the potential to revolutionise the cleanliness of UK hospitals. The technology, which is already used by the University of Cambridge in lab-bound pathogen detection work, is now being to be developed specifically for use in hospitals

Dr Kevin A Auton Ph.D, Commercial Director for Universal Sensors Ltd said:

  "The healthcare sector is an exciting avenue for this product. We've been successfully employing the technology in a laboratory setting for a while now but it was only when we heard about the SBRI that we had a eureka moment and realised the broader opportunities for its use.

"This programme has provided a platform for us to take the fight to hospital superbugs that are claiming lives in hospitals across the country."   

Plasma Hand Sterilizer

Creo Medical, an award-winning research and development company, has harnessed the benefits of non-thermal plasma to create a new approach to hospital hand hygiene. The product, which uses an unobtrusive and non abrasive 'handiplasma', has been designed as a supplement to traditional handwashing.

The plasma acts like a disinfectant, killing bacteria and pathogens on contact whilst remaining kind to the skin, even when used numerous times a day. The technology has been tested with the help of University College London Hospital and a working prototype is now being developed. This will take the size and shape of a modern hand-dryer.   Plasma (the fourth state of matter after solids, liquids and gas) has additional antiseptic qualities and is already being used for sterilising wounds. 

Mr Steven Morris, Operations Director at Creo Medical Ltd said:

"The plasma solution we are creating will hopefully provide an answer to those issues associated with constant hand-washing. I would go as far as to say our product is likely to make alcohol based antibacterial hand gels obsolete.

"The development of this product has benefitted massively from the SBRI programme. Not only has it helped us hopefully move another step closer to market, but we have also been able to foster a useful link with UCLH in the process."

Targeted Hand Clean

The final project is a precision cleaning product developed by Proventec Plc. The technology has evolved from similar technology originally used in the food industry and has been designed to make the process

of hand washing more effective in the total removal of harmful bacteria from the hands and under fingernails. A key issue in hospitals is a lack of consistency in staff hand washing, whether through time constraints or a simple lack of understanding. By automating  and validating a successful hand wash procedure on each occasion it is ensured that hands are washed and bacteria are successfully removed in the most effective and consistent way.

SBRI support at the feasibility stages has enabled Proventec to demonstrate the validity of the product and the results it will achieve in a clinical setting. Early trials of the product, by nurses and nursing staff attending the Royal College of Nursing Congress, has provided significant positive feedback.

The product has additional environmental benefits thanks to its targeted and efficient use of water. When compared with traditional hand washing, where the tap is typically left running, the automated system reduces water use by 60 percent.

 Thomas Stuecken, Commercial Director at Proventec PLC said:

"We are very excited by the development of our super-sink designed to kill super bugs. It is evidence of how successful technologies can be put to use across different industries for the good of everyone. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response to the product to date and are very glad to now be working on the design and prototype stage.

"We're a small company and it is the support and investment of programmes such as SBRI has so far proven invaluable. It is clear that there is still some way to go before we see our product on wards up and down the country, but we are a step closer."

For full press release including notes to editors please follow this link

Please see competitions page for more details on competitons

For more information please contact:
Claire Cunningham  - 01793 442901 / 
Emily Dent -  07824 599 710 /



Last updated on Monday 04 October 2010 at 11:18

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