2011 Medical Devices and
Diagnostics Winner and Finalists

The winner in the medical devices and diganostics category was Mr Muhammad Imran Aslam and his team from University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust for their work developing a novel blood test for bowel cancer detection and screening. About one in 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime (Cancer Research UK, 2005). The current strategy for bowel cancer screening is based on a Faecal Occult Blood Test but it is inaccurate and has led to misdiagnoses and unnecessary invasive investigations. The national screening programme offers screening every 2 years for 6 million people between the ages of 60 and 69 years and costs £76m per year. If the screening age is extended to cover 50 to 70 year olds there will be up to 10 million people in the screening programme. The team based at University Hospital Leicester have successfully developed a novel blood assay based on micro RNA that offers better accuracy of detection and can result in big cost savings.  The initial work has been validated with a high degree of accuracy on 100 patients.  They are now looking to produce a diagnostic kit with software that should have the results within 6-8 hours. The potential for such a test is immense not just in the UK but world wide.

The other finalists in the category were Avril McCarthy from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Heather Elphick from Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust, Joyce Burns from the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and Andrew Copestake from Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd. 

Avril McCarthy and her team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have been working with Andrew Slorances from I Imagine Ltd developing a novel wheelchair known as Carbon Black. Carbon Black is an exciting advance in wheelchair design aimed at the active independent user. Wheelchair design has changed very little in the last twenty five years. Carbon Black uses Formula One racing car expertise in its carbon fibre construction making it light weight, highly manouverable and has a host of other highly desirable features. Andrew Slorance has  been a wheelchair user since breaking his back in 1983 aged fourteen.  He was frustrated with the old design of  wheelchair which was limiting in performance and style and Andrew has made it his mission to radically improve things. Over the last four years Andrew has personally invested considerable amount of time and money in Carbon Black based on his own experience. Devices for Dignity and Andrew would like to see his wheelchair become the desirable wheelchair to own. Carbon Black is designed to empower the user not overpower the user.


Heather Elphick and her team at Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust have developed a novel non-contact respiratory rate monitoring device. For children admitted to casualty at Sheffield Childrens Hospital one of the most important measurements needed is an accurate assessment of respiratory rate.  Changes in respiratory rate are known to be an early indicator of deterioration in a patient’s condition.  If the child is young and very agitated it can be very difficult for the staff and distressing for the child and parents to try and obtain a direct measurement. There is currently no portable device for accurately measuring respiratory rate. The Childrens Hospital in conjunction with Sheffield Hallam University have set out to develop what they believe to be the first portable non contact device. The device has a facility to trigger an alarm when the respiratory rate falls outside a set range and has potential to be further developed. It can be used in the emergency department, primary care, wards, ambulances and at home and a patent application has been filed.


Joyce Burns and her team at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust have developed a peripheral field test for upper eyelid malposition. In the NHS, cosmetic procedures are not routinely supported. There is currently debate about the impact of over-hanging eyelids and drooping upper eyelid. However, up until recently there hasn’t been a test readily available that could demonstrate the physical impairment suffered by such patients in an objective, cost effective and repeatable manner. The team at Leicester Royal Infirmary modified an existing test and since 2006 they have used the new Leicester Test on all patients referred to them for both eye conditions. Results have been published in an international peer reviewed journal and they are using the results to make an objective assessment whether surgical intervention can be justified. The test can readily be spread to other hospital sites with the same equipment. Future developments will introduce greater efficiencies and patient benefits.

Andrew Copestake at Swedish Biomimetics 3000 Ltd has been working with a team based at Leeds University and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to develop a high performance inhaler mouthpiece/nasalpiece. They are working on a research programme to develop an  ‘intelligent’ asthma inhaler and the associated mouthpiece or spacer. The design of the mouthpiece is as important as the therapeutic drug because data suggests that up to 90% of the drug may not actually enter the body at all but is trapped in the mouthpiece and wasted. The improved mouthpiece design suggests that dosing levels [and thereby costs] can be reduced by up to 90%. These gains are particularly valuable for modern drugs, which are both more expensive and very potent.