A Medical Device Daily

The Institute for Health Technology Studies (InHealth; Washington) has awarded $1.7 million in grants over the next two years to researchers at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois), Medical College of Georgia (Augusta), Tufts University (Medford, Massachusetts) and the University of Houston.

The funding will allow researchers to examine the economic and social impact of diagnostic and therapeutic medical devices on treating diseases and chronic medical conditions, InHealth said.

Those researchers will explore the cost-benefit effects of insulin pumps, hearing aids, in-vitro diagnostics, genomic diagnostics for personalized medicine and devices used to treat sleep apnea. The new funding continues InHealth's mission of supporting objective research that evaluates the value and social and economic impact of medical technology. It comes at a time when rising health care costs, the aging "baby boomer" generation and increasing numbers of uninsured patients magnify critical issues related to health policy, the organization noted.

"Health issues reduce the quality of life for millions of Americans while incurring a heavy economic burden on patients and the health care system," said InHealth Executive Director Martyn Howgill. "Medical technology plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis and treatment of injury and disease and while the intuitive evidence clearly suggests that medical technology benefits the patient, there's little objective evidence of its value to policy makers and regulators."

Howgill said that InHealth is working to build evidence about the contributions of technology to patients and society and to make sure that the information is within reach of policy makers and health leaders.

This is the third round of grants awarded since InHealth began funding research in 2005. To date, InHealth has allocated more than $4 million toward research grants. Current studies that have appeared or await publication in peer-reviewed journals focus on total hip and knee replacements, cardiac stents, implantable defibrillators, neonatal care and diagnostic imaging. Findings from this new round of research are expected in 2009 and 2010, InHealth said.

Grant details are as follows:

Johns Hopkins was awarded a one-year grant of $200,000 to study the economic value of hearing aids and associated technologies.

Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia were awarded a $491,344, two-year grant to study the impact of insulin pumps on the social, cultural and economic aspects of patient and family life.

Researchers John Linehan, PhD, professor of Medicine and Bioengineering at Northwestern University, and Jan Pietzsch, PhD, professor in Stanford University's Department of Management Science and Engineering, will apply a one year, $191,231 grant to deliver new insights about the role of medical technology in diagnosing and treating obstructive sleep apnea.

Researchers at Tufts University will apply the two-year, $400,000 grant to examine the method by which in vitro diagnostic technology's value is measured from several angles, which include exploring published cost-analyses and conducting a survey to gauge preferences for diagnostic testing. The study aims to be the most comprehensive analysis of cost-effectiveness to date.

A research team at the University of Houston was awarded a $398,000, two-year grant to analyze the willingness of patients from different socio-economic backgrounds to adopt and use genomic devices for tailoring drug-prescription, including the willingness to pay for novel genomic diagnostics.

In other grant-related news, Nerites (Madison, Wisconsin) was awarded a Phase I SBIR grant to develop a surgical "glue" for hernia repair.

Surgeons in the U.S. repair nearly 1 million hernias annually when intestines bulge through the abdominal wall, according to Nerites, a company that develops synthetic adhesives, sealants, and coatings for internal medical use. To prevent re-occurrence, surgeons reinforce the inside of the wall by using a "patch" that can be either sewn or stapled into place, Nerites said. Unfortunately, the company added, these methods of fixation have undesirable consequences. Sutures require extended surgical times and make laparoscopy more difficult. Staples lead to postoperative pain and tissue encapsulation for many patients.

That's why, Nerites said, it has been awarded a Phase I SBIR grant to develop surgical "glue" that will be used to affix hernia reinforcement patches and replace sutures and staples. If a glue is strong enough to hold patches in place, it can yield faster surgeries with fewer patient complications, according to the company.

The Nerites hernia glue is based on the company's synthetic adhesive technology.

"Nerites was inspired by marine mussels and the remarkable substance they secrete to bond to underwater surfaces," said CEO Thomas Mozer. "Our scientists mimic these proteins by building synthetic, adhesive polymers. The characteristics of our adhesives can be altered to fit many different medical indications without sacrificing strength or biocompatibility. We're excited to begin developing products for hernia repair, and expect that these will be valuable additions to our portfolio of adhesives projects."