Department of Health written question – answered on 20th March 2015.

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Photo of Chuka Umunna Chuka Umunna Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what technologies are being developed with support from the Small Business Research Initiative programmes of (a) his Department and (b) NHS England; and what assessment he has made of the future potential uses of those technologies.

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The Department, through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), is currently funding the development of a number of technologies aimed at promoting patient empowerment and sustainability in kidney care. Six phase 2 SBRI contracts valued at £2 million were awarded in February 2015. The technologies being developed range from diagnostics to digital solutions, for use in the home and in secondary care. Potential uses include early infection detection in patients on peritoneal dialysis, prevention of acute kidney injury and renal patient transport.

The Department is also supporting, through SBRI, the development of enabling technologies for genomics sequence data analysis and interpretation. In March 2015 five phase 2 SBRI contracts, valued at £8 million, were awarded for the development of next generation sequencing technologies which were assessed as having the potential to help deliver the Prime Minister’s 100,000 Genome Project. Potential uses are in the areas of diagnostics related to genome screening, clinical research, gene-discovery and wider use of stratified medicine. The technologies are hoped to provide more accurate variant calling and annotation pipelines, new ways of expressing the reference genomes, improving human leukocyte antigen genotyping and intuitive user interfaces to allow clinicians to interpret variants from next generation sequencing machines.

The NHS England SBRI Healthcare programme currently has 138 contracts with companies to develop innovative technologies to address known healthcare needs. These range from diagnostics to digital management solutions; embracing conditions such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia and patient safety and bringing solutions for mental health, primary and acute care. Assessment of the programme by the Office of Health Economics and the SBRI Healthcare team in 2014 has shown that since 2012 the pipeline has a potential to secure £434 million efficiency savings each year for the next decade. Assessment of the programme also shows that 150 jobs have been created, 31 patents awarded and over £10 million of additional investment has been leveraged.

The technologies supported include a light therapy sleep mask for the prevention of diabetic retinopathy; ultraviolet scope enabling intraoperative visibility of cancer cells in surgery; a point of care cardiac diagnostic to fully diagnose a heart attack within 20 minutes and a blood test to definitively rule out a diagnosis of colorectal cancer.

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