2020: A year of medical innovation

2020: A year of medical innovation

Feature articles |
By Nick Flaherty

Medical technology in Europe, particularly ventilators to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, became an unexpectedly vital area of the industry in 2020. Manufacturing capacity was shifted to the production of ventilators to help patients with coronavirus, with established companies adding extra shifts and partners stepping up to ensure supply chains were supported.

The industry responded magnificently on the whole. Engineers developed new, low cost designs that were available as open source. New designs emerged from unexpected places, most notably UK vacuum cleaner makers Dyson and G-Tech, but struggled with certification as a medical device. The UK ventilator challenge went on to produce over 14,000 ventilators with two modified designs.

Testing was also a key area, with new ways of delivering the ‘gold standard’ PCR tests. DNAnudge, the startup run by serial entrepreneur Prof Toumazou re-purposed its ‘lab on a chip’ microfluidics technology for Covid-19, while Bosch pushed forward its Vitalytic platform to reduce the test time. By the of the year this was down to under 30 minutes.  

Next: New testing technology for Covid-19

Then there were new technologies for tests and for patient monitoring

Machine learning also proved to be a key medical technology for faster diagnosis. Projects that had been looking at detecting lung infections from X-rays, ultrasound and even breath sounds were spun to identify Covid-19, while research started on a test that will detect covid-19 from breath.

However it was not all plain sailing for European manufacturers. Philips in particular was accused of overcharging for 43,000 Covid-19 ventilator systems in a deal negotiated with the US administration at the start of the pandemic. This has led to changes in its business later in the year.

With vaccines rolling out, temperature monitoring has also been a key issue, with sensors and wireless technologies vital to the process.

All of this has boosted the focus on the development, certification and manufacturing of medical equipment and the sheer innovation and heart of the industry

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