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Ulster University, in collaboration with leading international medical companies including Intelesens, has been recognised at a global competition designed to uncover an innovative technological solution to diagnose some of the world’s most pressing health problems.

The $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition, which took place over three and a half years, attracted over 300 applications across the globe. The competition challenged participants to create a health diagnostics tool packaged into a single portable device and capable of diagnosing and interpreting a set of 16 medical conditions. Ulster University was awarded joint-third and was the best placed European team.

A team of researchers from Ulster University’s Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC), which was led by Professor Jim McLaughlin, developed a low-cost patient-centred diagnostic device. The team received support from university spin-out Intelesens and clinical guidance from renowned cardiology consultant Dr David McEneaney. It also drew on the expertise of the UK’s largest diagnostic company, Randox, and diagnostic pharmacy provider CIGA Healthcare to create a working prototype.

The innovative solution allows patients to accurately symptom-check their conditions through intuitive questions on a smart phone. They are guided with graphical instructions on how to use colour-coded supporting equipment, which communicates with their smart-phone via Bluetooth to diagnose everything from strep throat to urinary tract infection. Analytics and visualisation of outcomes and trends are then presented to the patient and data is transferred to the cloud for clinical monitoring, alerting and data analytics.

Lead researcher and Director of Ulster University’s Nanotechnology and Integrated BioEngineering Centre (NIBEC), Professor Jim McLaughlin said:

“At Ulster University we are using our world-leading expertise in sensor technology to address a wide range of global health concerns.

“As the best placed European team, we are proud of our top-five finish in this global competition and the journey has truly inspired us to reach new frontiers.  Our sights are now set on progressing the solution to secure improved outcomes for patients, as well as significant cost savings for healthcare providers.

“Back in 2015, we began to engage with stakeholders in the US, UK and Ireland to understand unmet healthcare needs that our solution could solve. Due to the scale of global heart failure issues within an ageing population we focused on this condition and are now using a £1m investment from local government to further develop our XPRIZE technology platform.”

The innovative technology can diagnose a range of health conditions including Anemia, Atrial Fibrillation, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Diabetes, HIV, Hypertension, Leukocytosis, Otitis Media, Pneumonia and Sleep Apnea.

The University technology is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and has been developed in partnership with Ulster University spin-out, Intelesens; Northern Ireland Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC), Randox Laboratories, CIGA Healthcare and Silicon Valley-based medtech company, Scanadu Inc.