A home dialysis machine inspired by technology used in juice dispensers has won the UK’s most prestigious engineering award.
The device, made by Quanta, is currently used by around 50 patients in the UK, but more than a dozen NHS trusts plan to offer the technology to patients this year and experts say it could transform the life of patients with renal failure.
Speaking ahead of the announcement of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Prize on Tuesday evening, Professor Sir Richard Friend, chairman of the jury, said the technology demonstrated “remarkable technical ingenuity” and had the potential to significantly improve the quality of life of patients and relieve pressure on hospitals.
“The team exemplifies the perseverance, innovation and unconventional thinking that have long characterized the UK’s greatest engineering achievements and they are worthy winners of the MacRobert Award,” said Friend.
Dialysis removes waste and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop working properly. This usually involves diverting the blood to a machine, the size of a fridge-freezer, where it passes through a complex system of mechanical valves, pumps and mixing chambers before being returned to the body.
Patients would typically undergo the procedure three times a week for four hours. Of the 30,000 dialysis patients in the UK, only around 5% use devices at home, as until now they have worked less efficiently than hospital systems, meaning patients need to be connected for longer periods of time .
In the Quanta device, called the SC+, the pistons and valve system are replaced with a disposable cartridge enclosed in a flexible membrane, which is squeezed and released using pressure changes inside the machine to control the flow rate. of dialysis fluid inside. The tabletop machine is much smaller, does not require specialized training to operate, and operates as efficiently as the conventional version.
The technology was originally developed to reconstitute orange juice from concentrate, but the team behind the invention saw its potential medical applications and created the company Quanta.
One patient, Lewis Till, 21, from Wolverhampton, has been on dialysis for two years after developing autoimmune kidney disease, but said hospital dialysis was not frequent enough to keep him ‘really well’ and that traveling to the hospital alone was exhausting. After switching to the Quanta device, he undergoes dialysis five times a week for three hours, which has improved his health, and can spend time with his family or play video games at home.
“I wish the general public had a better understanding of kidney disease and how serious it is because there is a lack of recognition so people on dialysis don’t really get support or really understand how difficult it is. “, did he declare. “It can make it difficult to try to explain to employers or friends and family how this affects your ability to continue a normal life.”
Quanta CEO John Milad said the device had been a “lifetime’s work to make it a reality” for the team behind the innovation, and winning the prize was a “huge validation of what we have done” to transform lives.
Previous winners of the MacRobert Prize include the engineers who developed Rolls-Royce’s iconic Harrier jump-jet engine and the team that designed the Severn Bridge.