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by Gemma Fraser
07 September 2020
Scottish universities receive funding for ground-breaking healthcare projects


Scottish universities receive funding for ground-breaking healthcare projects

Four Scottish universities have been awarded £20m to help identify and treat debilitating diseases such as cancer and osteoarthritis quicker.

The universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, along with Edinburgh Napier and Heriot-Watt will each receive a share of the funding from the UK Government aimed at transforming healthcare delivery.

Projects include AI X-ray scanner to diagnose cancer and osteoarthritis more effectively and clinical sensors to provide feedback on health and wellbeing in homes.

InlightenUs, led by the University of Edinburgh, will receive £5.4m to use a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and infra-red lasers to produce fast, high resolution 3D medical images, helping to identify diseases in patients more quickly. 

Working with the universities of Nottingham and Southampton, the new research will initially be developed for use on hospital wards and GP surgeries, and by 2050 aims to scale up to walk through airport style X-ray scanners, which will be able to pick up detailed images of structures often hidden within the human body that can reveal tumours. 

COG-MHEAR, led by Edinburgh Napier University, will receive £3.2m to develop hearing aids designed to autonomously adapt to the nature and quality of their surroundings.

Currently only 40 per cent of people who could benefit from hearing aids have them, while most current devices make only limited use of speech enhancement.

These hearing aids would be able to adapt to the nature and quality of the visual and acoustic environment around them, resulting in greater intelligibility of noise and potentially reduced listening effort for the listener.

Quantum Imaging for Monitoring of Wellbeing and Disease in Communities, led by the University of Glasgow, will receive £5.5m to develop a project which aims to create a home of the future, providing homeowners with feedback on their health and wellbeing.

Bringing clinically approved sensors into the living environment will enable individuals, carers or healthcare professional to monitor blood flow, heart rate and even brain function in the home.

Monitoring physical and emotional wellbeing in the home will enable tailored programmes to be built for lifestyles improvement, as well as rehabilitation.

U-care, led by Heriot-Watt University in partnership with the universities of Bath and Edinburgh, will receive £6.1m to exploit new laser, optical fibre and imaging technologies, delivering therapy for bacterial diseases and viruses in confined regions of the body such as the lungs, catheters inserted into the body for prolonged periods and areas of the body that have been subject to surgical procedures.

The platform will be able to cut out single cells leaving the cells around it undamaged in cancer surgery, aiming to offer a cure for currently unresectable tumours – tumours that are too close to critical structures and cannot be cut away safely with current approaches. 

The £20m awarded to Scottish universities is part of a £32m UK-wide announcement for healthcare projects announced by UK Government Science Minister Amanda Solloway.

She said: “The pioneering projects we are backing today will help modernise healthcare, improving all of our lives now and into the future.”

Scotland Minister Iain Stewart said: “Scotland is home to a world-leading research and tech sector.

“This UK Government is determined to support Scottish universities and the incredible talent they have. We are committed to help keep them at the cutting edge. 

“It is a fantastic to see such a variety of projects awarded funding, from identifying cancer more quickly to managing health and wellbeing in the home, all will make a positive difference to health of millions of people across the UK and important contribution to the future of the NHS.”

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