Aug 19 2019 Posted: 00:00 IST

Funding to advance development of Tight Alright device to treat venous leg ulcers, the first device capable of continuously monitoring compression therapy outside the clinical setting

FeelTect, a connected-health, wound care start-up company established from the NUI Galway laboratory of CÚRAM investigator, Professor Garry Duffy, has been presented with an *EIT Health Headstart award worth €50,000 to advance the development of their ‘Tight Alright’ pressure sensing device to treat venous leg ulcers. The competition finals saw 22 finalist teams of medtech start-ups from across the UK and Ireland pitching their technologies to a panel of investors, healthcare professionals, and medtech experts.

FeelTect’s technology, Tight Alright, is a wireless, pressure sensing device for measuring and monitoring sub-bandage pressure during compression therapy, primarily for the millions of people worldwide with venous leg ulcers (VLUs). Venous leg ulcers are chronic wounds that stem from venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency is a medical condition affecting the circulation of blood to the lower limbs. The tiny valves that normally force blood back up towards the heart no longer function, causing blood to pool up in the legs, and the veins of the legs become distended, resulting in an accumulation of fluid in the lower limbs.

Venous leg ulcers are associated with a variety of risk factors including age, increased body mass index (BMI), low physical activity, high blood pressure, venous insufficiency, deep vein thrombosis, and family history. Compression therapy is the gold-standard treatment for venous leg ulcers helping to overcome venous insufficiency and restoring blood flow, however it is ineffective if applied too loosely, and dangerous if applied too tightly. Yet studies have shown that even experienced wound care clinicians can find it difficult to achieve a targeted pressure with existing compression products.  

Despite major advances in certain wound care areas, such as regenerative medicine, moisture balance, infection management, and tissue oxygenation, the basic tools for compression therapy have been largely untouched by significant (“disruptive”) innovation in recent decades.

FeelTect aims to change this through the digital capabilities of Tight Alright, which will enable improvements in the application and maintenance of evidence-based compression therapy, ensuring safety while reducing healing times. In fact, due to global wound care industry trends, such as the expiry of patents, entry of low-cost competitors, and a lack of advanced wound care specialisation amongst clinicians, many leaders in the segment have turned their focus to digital, outcomes-based, and value-based innovations that complement their existing product portfolios. FeelTect is fully aligned with these needs, resulting in very strong interest from potential strategic partners.

FeelTect founder and CEO, Dr Andrew Cameron, highlighted the impact the award will have on the company’s progression towards market entry: “The funding provided by EIT Health will allow us to progress the miniaturisation of Tight Alright to a truly wearable product, making it the first device capable of continuously monitoring compression therapy outside the clinical setting. We’ll also be able to further our initial clinical validation, which was supported by Health Innovation Hub Ireland, demonstrating the ability of Tight Alright to improve the achievement of targeted, evidence-based pressure during compression application.

“We have planned our first clinical study involving VLU patients with our clinical collaborator, Professor Mary-Paula Colgan in St James’s Hospital. After having experienced wound care nurses from Galway University Hospitals, and Dr Georgina Gethin from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at NUI Galway validating the functionality of the Tight Alright prototype, with substantial improvements in the achievement of targeted bandage pressure on healthy volunteers, the FeelTect team is excited to see these results translated to benefit patients.”

Inventor, Co-founder and CÚRAM investigator, Professor Garry Duffy, NUI Galway, stated: “It’s very exciting to see the first commercial product from our labs at NUI Galway move closer to the clinic. NUI Galway has the perfect ecosystem to support translational medical devices including the BioInnovate Ireland programme, where this unmet clinical need was identified, and the critical mass of expertise provided through the CÚRAM investigator network which is supporting the development of the product. Through Enterprise Ireland’s initial support and now with EIT Health Headstart funding we plan to continue the clinical validation of the Tight Alright technology and move it close to positive outcomes for patients with venous leg ulcers.”

FeelTect began its journey in the renowned BioInnovate Ireland programme based at NUI Galway, where the underlying clinical need was identified by 2017 BioInnovate Fellow Dr Andrew Cameron, in collaboration with CÚRAM investigator, Dr Georgina Gethin, as well as an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund project within the Duffy Lab in the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, where the proof-of-concept research and development was conducted. The team is currently in discussions with potential partners and has launched a seed round for fundraising to support the progression of Tight Alright into clinical practice.

For more information about FeelTect, based at NUI Galway, visit: https://www.feeltect.com/.

For more about CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, visit: http://curamdevices.ie/.

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