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Could this be the long-awaited breakthrough in GBM?

Through electric field therapy, QV Bioelectronics are looking to achieve better clinical outcomes and improved quality of life for glioblastoma patients

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While breakthroughs in cancer treatment over the past 40 years have been truly life-changing, with recovery prospects and life expectancy in many common cancers revolutionised, that sadly is not true with regard to glioblastoma (GBM). 

A particularly aggressive form of brain tumour, the outlook for GBM patients continues to be bleak, with the average survival time being just 12 to 18 months despite an intensive treatment regime comprising surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Only a quarter of people diagnosed with GBM survive for longer than this, with just five per cent still alive five years later. 

In a world where cancer treatments continue to be developed successfully, the overall outlook for most cancer patients is improving accordingly – 76 per cent of breast cancer patients now survive for at least ten years following diagnosis, a rate which has doubled in the last four decades. Sadly, this has not been the case for GBM patients.

And it is that lack of progress in GBM treatment, which has inspired the creation of what just could be the long-awaited breakthrough.

Through the work of QV Bioelectronics, the potential of electric field therapy in helping GBM patients see better clinical outcomes and experience improved quality of life is being realised, with the combination of the biomedical engineering and neurosurgery expertise of its founders, helping to give hope for the future in an area where advances are desperately needed. 

“It is too long since we have had any change in how GBM is treated. The needle has moved massively in cancer care, but not in GBM. Our ambition is to increase the number of ‘long term survivors’ significantly – the ones who survive for several years, who currently only make up a very small percentage of all GBM patients,” says Qasim Akhtar, head of business development at QV Bioelectronics. 

And with the development of its implantable GRACE device, which would be used alongside the current standard of care, the business is already on its way to delivering on its ambitions. With a prototype device already made, and ongoing investment being raised to support its progress – with the last £735,000 seed funding round significantly oversubscribed – QV Bioelectronics is striving to be available on the market in late 2028. 

Further research and development is ongoing, with pilot studies moving into large animals next year, as QV Bioelectronics continues to move closer to its life-changing technology becoming reality. 

The business, established in 2018, was inspired by the experience of Dr Richard Fu, a neurosurgeon who was determined to develop better treatment solutions for GBM patients. He was aware of the recently developed approach to deliver electric field therapy through an externally worn scalp cap, which had already shown promise in clinical trials, but believed that an implanted approach to deliver electric field therapy continuously and more precisely could have the potential to dramatically improve patient outcomes whilst also improving quality of life.

“Too often, patients were being told they might have a year left. Some of whom were in the prime of their lives, but there was nothing the doctors could do. Patients, and doctors too, were crying out for improved treatments,” says Qasim. 

While carrying out research at the University of Manchester, Dr Fu met Dr Christopher Bullock, a biomedical engineer with expertise in medical device design, biomaterials and bioelectronics, who was completing a PhD in regenerative medicine. 

“They became fast friends in the lab and the idea took off from there. Chris had huge complementary experience and knowledge in the use of advanced materials in bioelectronics, and the concept drew upon Chris and Richard’s joint expertise,” says Qasim. 

“They believed that they could create something highly innovative – an implanted device made from advanced materials which could deliver electric field therapy 24/7 and had the potential to improve survival rates whilst not affecting a patient’s quality of life. This would represent a huge breakthrough.” 

And from that concept has come the development of GRACE. After winning the Eli and Britt Harari Award from the University of Manchester in 2018, established to develop commercially-viable ideas using the wonder material graphene, Dr Bullock and Dr Fu used the £50,000 award to begin the process of bringing their idea to life. 

From there, QV Bioelectronics – which rebranded from Honeycomb Biotechnology – has continued to develop, with a now six-strong team, of which Qasim was the first employee, and expansion into the UK’s biggest bioscience park, Alderley Park in Cheshire, helping to propel it forward. Accelerator programmes at Alderley Park, RebelBio (at Imperial College London) and Creative Destruction Lab (at Oxford) have also helped to lay the foundations for its future. 

Significant investment has already been raised, but much more will be needed to ensure QV Bioelectronics is able to achieve its ambitions and make its technology available to medical teams and patients. 

“We know we’re going to have to raise a lot of investment but we’ve had great support for what we have done so far, and from investors buying into our plans. We need to go through safety clinical trials and major international trials before we can look at securing market approval, the regulations for which are very tight, as they should be,” says Qasim. 

“When we go into the studies in large animals in about a year’s time, we hope to show the progress we’ve made with some exciting safety data, and we can move forward from there.” 

“It’s amazing to think how far we have come already. When I first joined in 2019, we were working on ideas in co-working spaces and coffee shops, but we are moving forward strongly. There is a huge amount of work to do, but we are all inspired by the end result.”

“Our big ambition is for this to be something that a surgeon recommends whenever a GBM patient has surgery, and for this decision not to be limited by price. In the longer-term, we can also look at whether we can expand what we do into other neuro-oncologies, and whether we can integrate detection systems – but for now, the entire focus is on GBM, an area where change is so badly needed.”

Tech

GripAble praised by MP

Stephen Hammond MP hails its innovation and “extraordinary” success to date and potential

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The progress of GripAble has been hailed as “extraordinary” by its local MP, who praised its innovation and ongoing progress in transforming neurorehab and wider healthcare.

GripAble, the UK technology company digitising upper limb rehabilitation from hospital to home, welcomed Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon, to its international sales and distribution centre.

Mr Hammond visited GripAble’s office in Wimbledon to learn how private equity investment has helped it to scale its industry-leading data platform and therapy services and expand GripAble into Europe and the US, as well as how an international company has successfully stemmed from the local business community. 

During his visit, the MP met the GripAble team and listened to a presentation by GripAble co-founder and CEO Dr Paul Rinne, who shared the background to GripAble and its growth story to date, as well as plans and ambitions for the future.

Prior to becoming an MP, Stephen Hammond worked for a leading fund management company and multiple investment banks, so was particularly interested in the funding GripAble has received to date, including the recent close of its $11m funding round. 

With more than 8,000 individuals having already used the platform, GripAble has established itself as a leading technology in the remote-rehab space in the UK, recording 100,000 activity sessions and 27 million movement repetitions across its users.

Stephen Hammond MP said: “GripAble proves that innovative companies of the future that are building products that will transform healthcare can be based anywhere, but I’m particularly proud that GripAble has started out in Wimbledon. 

“It’s been wonderful to see the development of the company over the last two years since first meeting Paul, and I’m sure the developments over the next three years will be equally extraordinary, particularly with the backing of private equity investment.”

Dr Rinne said: “Today’s visit was a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase GripAble’s story and vision to a Member of Parliament and explain how private equity investment can help UK-based entrepreneurs take ideas from seed stage through to global scaling, and compete on the international stage. 

“The investment we have received will accelerate GripAble’s journey to delivering end-to-end patient rehabilitation and connecting millions to their own personal home-based clinic. 

“With the backing of investors such as IP Group and Parkwalk, we will benefit from a wealth of insight and experience that will support us in growing our platform in the US and expanding our clinical and commercial evidence base. 

“It is great to be able to work with such supportive investors that make our lives so much easier.”

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Tech

Cognetivity tech could revolutionise concussion detection

Having established itself in early-stage dementia, CognICA is now being used in a new concussion in sport study

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A new study into concussion in sport will use the pioneering cognitive testing platform developed by Cognetivity to identify changes in brain health through repeated head impacts. 

The research will see Cognetivity partner with Durham University and sports tech firm My Sports Wellbeing to look at concussions at all levels of sport, from high performance to community level. 

Data will be collected through the CognICA platform, the groundbreaking AI technology developed by Cognetivity which has helped to revolutionise early-stage dementia testing and is now moving into new applications for its use, including concussion. 

Professor Karen Hind from Durham University and her team will use the tool to detect concussion and investigate changes in relation to repeated sub concussions. 

The goal of the study is to investigate the CognICA tool’s effectiveness in identifying changes in cognitive health due to concussion and repeated head impacts.

Up to 3.8million athletes sustain concussions annually, with statistics showing that between 56 and 89 per cent of concussions are missed or misdiagnosed, which often leads to the mismanagement of patients who are affected. 

Through the use of the CognICA platform, which has proven its efficacy in dementia and its ability to detect small changes in cognition, Cognetivity believes it can have a key role to play in concussion and enable better outcomes for athletes of all levels. 

“We are excited to work with Durham University and My Sports Wellbeing to understand more about the cognitive impact of concussions in sports and how CognICA can contribute to timely diagnosis and therefore better treatment and management of this serious global issue,” said Dr Sina Habibi, co-founder and CEO of Cognetivity. 

“Improving assessment, treatments and care to elevate the overall lives of patients with brain injuries and cognitive impairments is a top priority at Cognetivity and we are hopeful that the study will yield important results to help us achieve that goal.”

Prof Hind is a prominent name in athlete health and wellbeing, and led the first independent study into the health of retired professional rugby players. 

“We’re very excited to be working on this study. Cognetivity’s unique technology represents a promising way to assess cognitive health in athletes at risk of concussion, post concussion and in relation to sub-concussions,” she said. 

“This study is part of our overall programme of research through which we seek to investigate and provide strategies to improve athlete health and welfare.”

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Tech

MotusAcademy launches to advance rehab tech globally

MotusAcademy will advance knowledge sharing around rehab and assistive technologies, with plans already in place to expand on a global scale

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The pioneering MotusAcademy has been formally launched to advance knowledge sharing of rehabilitative and assistive technologies, with plans already in place to expand further on a global scale. 

The platform is dedicated to promoting continuing development and education in rehabilitation robotics, bringing together leaders in their field internationally for the advancement of the sector. 

MotusAcademy, based in Zurich, Switzerland, has partnered with the International Industry Society of Advanced Rehabilitation Technology (IISART); the MINT Academy, created by Hobbs Rehabilitation in the UK; and the European Center of Neurosciences in Spain. 

Now set to advance its ambitions further, MotusAcademy will establish its Asia Pacific Hub in Singapore by June 2022, with hubs also planned for North America, South America, the Middle East and Africa. 

The platform offers educational resources which are freely available for the advancement of rehabilitative and assistive technology, supported by a minimum of four educational seminars held every year by each of the hubs. 

MotusAcademy will also launch an official publication, the Journal of Rehabilitation Methods and Technologies (JRMT), which aims to be the leading journal to focus on emerging rehabilitative and assistive methods and technologies.

To mark its official launch, founding members attended a virtual event to celebrate the occasion. 

The event featured leading names in rehab tech globally, including newly-elected MotusAcademy President, Professor Robert Riener, director of the Sensory-Motor-Systems Lab at ETH Zürich; Vice President, Professor Jose Pons, director of the Legs+Walking Lab at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab; and Zen Koh, incoming President of IISART and Co-Founder of Fourier Intelligence.

The scientific advisory board for MotusAcademy is represented by members of the GReAT network.

“The creation and formal launch of MotusAcademy marks a significant step forward in the fast-growing area of rehabilitative and assistive technologies, uniting global partners who share a vision to work together to improve lives of patients around the world,” says Professor Riener. 

“As we create new hubs in more international locations, we will expand and grow knowledge and promote education even further. 

“This is a global mission and we want to work as widely as possible. We look forward to collaborating with like-minded partners to jointly promote the advancement of this field.”

Zen Koh says: “Education is central to the development of rehabilitation robotics, and through MotusAcademy, we are dedicated to promoting this across the world, to people in a range of professions at all stages of their careers – whether they are engineering students or medical professionals, continued development is crucial to achieving the full potential of this sector. 

“Collaboration is how we can collectively achieve success, and ultimately deliver the best possible outcomes for patients, so we are very pleased to be able to share MotusAcademy and its resources with the world. 

“By working together, we can deliver positive change and realise what we can achieve in advanced rehabilitation robotics.”

More details on MotusAcademy can be found at www.motusacademy.org  

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