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26 November 2008 - PR 08/161

Ground breaking innovations in healthcare receive prestigious awards

Pioneering research to advance laser eye surgery and lab-based tests to assess individual patient response to chemotherapy, allergies and parasites were recognised last night at the 2008 Da Vinci Health Technology Awards.

Organised by the Da Vinci Health Technology Innovation Network, the national awards recognise scientists, engineers and clinicians working together to save lives and improve patient care. Three awards of £15,000 were made to accelerate the potential of three innovative partnerships developed in the East Midlands.

The Clinical Impact Award recognises a technique, developed at Loughborough University to test the structural integrity of RNLI lifeboats, that has been applied for the first time to measure the strain on the human cornea. John Marshall, the founder of laser refractive eye surgery, and ophthalmic surgeon Nathaniel Knox-Cartwright worked with John Tyrer, founder of Loughborough spin-out Laser Optical Engineering Ltd, to develop the technique to enable advance screening of patients at risk of post-operative complications. The technology also enables the refinement of lasers for eye surgery, paving the way for personalised treatment. The research has global potential as it will also allow mass screening for glaucoma.

The Breakthrough Technology Award recognises the first ever array based in-vitro test to report which specific allergens will trigger allergic reactions in individual patients. University of Nottingham scientists Marcos Alcocer and Franco Falcone have developed a technique to test up to 5,000 food or inhalant allergens and diagnose parasitic infections. They have also worked with respiratory experts at the City Hospital, Nottingham, to develop the research’s exciting potential in relation to asthma. The Breakthrough Award was made in memory of Peter Smith, Da Vinci Network founder and Professor of Photonics Engineering at Loughborough.

The Newcomer Award was presented to Aref Zayed, an analytical chemistry PhD student at Loughborough University, for a fast and simple blood test to assess how individual patients will respond to platinum-based chemotherapy, before and during treatment. The potential benefits to patients for improving chemotherapy effectiveness and reducing side effects are huge. The test has been successfully demonstrated in the laboratory and a clinical trial has just begun at Leicester Royal Infirmary. Aref’s co-researchers are Barry Sharp and Helen Reid from the Centre for Analytical Science at Loughborough University and Don Jones and Anne Thomas from the University of Leicester and Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Anna Seddon, Manager of the Da Vinci Network, said: “The excellent response to the Da Vinci Awards reinforces the importance of building interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration to address critical issues in healthcare.” She continued, “The quality of applicants reflects the wealth of activity in healthcare innovation developed here in the East Midlands.”

The awards ceremony was held at Loughborough University on Tuesday 25 November. Guests included senior figures from the East Midlands’ clinical, research and health care industry communities.

– Ends –

For all media enquiries contact:

Gemma Waller
Marketing Officer
Loughborough University Enterprise Office
T: 01509 228684
E: G.L.Waller@lboro.ac.uk

Notes for editors:

  1. Films of the award winning projects and photographs are available on the Da Vinci website www.davinci-net.org

  2. The 2008 Da Vinci Awards were sponsored by imago, the East Midlands Healthcare and Biosciences iNet, The Interdisciplinary Bridging Award (IDBA) of Loughborough University and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, IPSO Ventures, NHS Innovations East Midlands and Loughborough University.

    Founded in 2005, the Da Vinci Network encourages scientists, engineers and clinicians to engage in open discussion about health technology research innovations and clinical challenges. The initiative has grown from discussions between clinicians at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and engineers from Loughborough University. Today we welcome clinicians, researchers and industry throughout the East Midlands region and beyond. Da Vinci is the clinical interface of the IDBA (www.lboro.ac.uk/idba).

  3. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

    It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2008 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top five universities in the UK, with 22 out of 30 of its subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. It was named winner of the 2006 and 2007 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other institution.

    It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research-intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

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