A Medical Device Daily

Health Secretary Alan Johnson reported last month that the UK government had launched a consultation into the future of stroke services, saying the challenge is to modernize stroke services at every stage and drive down death and disability caused by strokes.

Stroke is the third-biggest killer in England and the Department of Health said that, despite more money being spent on stroke care in recent years, care for stroke patients is still lagging behind the other two major killers — heart disease and cancer.

The consultation on stroke services published by Heart and Stroke Director Professor Roger Boyle will look at how the National Health Service (NHS) can bring the standard of stroke care into line with that of heart disease and cancer. The consultation will shape the final “Stroke Strategy,” which will be rolled out later this year.

“Despite the considerable gains in developing stroke units over the last few years, there remains more to be done to bring stroke services in line with cancer and heart disease services,” Johnson said. “That is why I asked Professor Boyle to work with the experts and stroke patients to look at how best we can improve prevention, treatment and care.”

He added: “We have some world-class stroke centers already, [but] the challenge is to raise the bar for stroke care across the country based around the needs of individuals and their families.”

Johnson said that stroke mortality is falling, with the death rate for those under 65, down by 23% since 1993, but that more needs to be done.

“We began by focusing on coronary heart disease, the biggest killer in the country. Now we must redouble our efforts in addressing the challenge of stroke.”

Boyle said, “I want to see better public awareness of how they can prevent strokes and what the early signs are so they get the treatment they need in time. Getting proper, early treatment can mean the difference between long-term paralysis or walking out of hospital a few days after your stroke. It is vitally important that we get this right.”

He added: “NHS services may also need to be reorganized within NHS Trusts or local areas to ensure that patients receive faster care. By redesigning services so that people can be given the newest treatments in specialist centers, including clot-busting drugs, 1,000 people who have a stroke a year could regain independence rather than die or be left dependent on others.”

UK robotics firm raises 2.6 million

Acrobot (London), a developer of what it refers to as a pioneering robotic tool for orthopedic implants, has received 2.6 million ($5.3 million) in B round financing.

The company said the funds raised will be used to bring the device — which it says will improve the results of knee joint implants and similar procedures — to market.

The funding round was jointly led by the London Technology Fund and PUK Ventures. Imperial Innovations Group, an early stage venture capital firm, also took part in the round.

Acrobot had received a previous round for an undisclosed amount in 2002 from Imperial College (London), Imperial Investments and Vialogy.

A spin-off from Imperial College, a leading science, engineering and medical university, Acrobot was founded in 2000 by a professor of medical robotics, Brian Davies, and professor of orthopedics, Justin Cobb.

The company said its products and services “center on the application of computer science and mechanical, electrical, and electronics engineering to surgery.” The technology and medical devices deriving from it are intended, Acrobot said, to assist surgical staff, “enabling new procedures to be performed and existing procedures to be carried out at a higher level of accuracy while also leading to minimally invasive operations.”

Acrobot’s portfolio includes:

Acrobot Planner, software designed to let the operating-theater team visualize the surgery ahead of time so they can spot and plan for potential problems;

Acrobot Navigator, a kind of GPS for surgeons that’s designed to let the doctor compare progress with plan; and

Acrobot Sculptor, a robotic tool designed to let the surgeon shape the bone to receive a joint replacement implant and that can tell the surgeon when it’s straying off course.

Acrobot Planner and Navigator already are commercially available, said Paula Gomez, the company’s director of operations, and the new money raised will be used to bring Sculptor to market.

The company plans to double its head count to 14 and move to new facilities by year-end, she said.

“The overall goal of Acrobot’s technologies is to provide speed, accuracy and reproducibility, which will ultimately lead to minimally invasive, bone-conserving, orthopedic surgery,” Gomez said, adding that surgeon-controlled robotics will eventually replace conventional instrumentation, enabling better bone preparation and more accurate implant positioning.

Licensing firm in pain management accord

Competitive Technologies (CTT; Fairfield, Connecticut) reported that it has obtained exclusive worldwide distribution rights to a pain management therapy for treating oncological/neuropathic pain.

CTT signed the distribution agreement with Professor Giuseppe Marineo and Delta Research & Development (both Rome).

The pain management therapy has been clinically tested on more than 260 patients in Italian hospitals. The method incorporates electro-medical equipment for electronic nerve stimulation, and uses the nerve fiber as a passive means to convey a message of normality to the central nervous system by a procedure defined as scrambling or mixing of information.

The non-invasive treatment uses the Scrambler Therapy ST5, a multiprocessor apparatus able to simultaneously treat multiple pain areas in the individual.

Delta R&D is a medical bioengineering research center affiliated with Tor Vergata University (Rome). Competitive Technologies is a technology transfer and licensing provider.