Tag Archive | "University of Limerick"

Limerick student’s life-saving technology wins €2,500 James Dyson Award

A new feeding system designed by a Limerick student after witnessing his cousin struggle with feeding tubes after her birth has won the Irish leg of the 2014 James Dyson Award.

Mallow, Co Cork, native Darren Lehane’s potentially life-saving technology is called Nutria and aims to prevent the fatal risk of incorrect insertion of feeding tubes into patients’ stomachs.

Lehane (22) has just completed his bachelor’s degree in product design and technology at University of Limerick.

He is quite the inventor and has so far designed more than 21 prototypes, disassembled one microwave, three vacuum cleaners, two retractable dog leashes, four measuring tapes, and three scalpel blade holders, as well as retrofitting countless medical products to the various prototypes.

Nutria will progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award and Lehane aims to commercialise the product.


Lehane was inspired to come up with the new invention after witnessing the hardship of his baby cousin, Danielle, who had to use a feeding tube shortly after her birth.

“It was horrible,” Lehane recalled. “She had an an awful time. The tube kept falling out and the excess tube was taped to her face, giving her a rash.

“Inserting an NG tube incorrectly has life-threatening consequences. A friend of mine studying medicine spoke of the stress this problem created in hospitals, but especially in the home setting, where an X-ray is not possible.”

Lehane began to investigate ways of improving the feeding system and joined an online forum where parents shared the problems they were experiencing with tube feeding.

Mallow, Co Cork, native Darren Lehane with his invention, Nutria

“It was here that I learned of the skin irritation caused by taping the tube to the patient’s cheek. The appearance of a child with a tube taped to their face, has in itself become a symbol of illness.

“So I set myself the goal to make the tube as discrete as possible. Many patients live normal sociable lives, and I wanted to design a solution that allowed them to do so with confidence.”

Unlike existing NG (nasogastric) tubes, Nutria rests just inside the nostril, almost invisible from the outside. Excess tube is cut flush with the valve and not exposed on the face.

To avoid misinserting the tube into the stomach, the system uses a Terahertz radiation microchip to show the exact position of the tube inside the body on a smartphone screen. Terahertz is a lot safer than an X-ray, due to a comparatively low frequency and long wavelength.

The system dramatically reduces the number of products and procedures involved in patient nutrition by combining three features to create a simplified, intuitive experience for the carer, as well as maximising patient comfort, and minimising cost.

The goal of eternal feeding

“I wanted to design a solution that allows patients to live normal sociable lives with confidence,” Lehane said.

“The goal of eternal feeding is to feed a patient who cannot ingest food normally. It took a lot of thinking to figure out that this project would consist of three separate parts, that would work together as a suite of products. I remembered how my uncle had to feed his daughter via NG tube for six months, and after listening to his experience, it was apparent that tube placement was only one of several issues that made life difficult for carers and patients alike.

“Nutria consists of a nostril valve to remove the need for taping of excess tubing, an audio jack accessory to safely monitor tube insertion on a smartphone, and a re-engineered pump with only two buttons; the on/off switch, and a button that winds in the feeding tube. All other functionality is moved to an app that’s operated on any smart device, via Bluetooth.”

The judges selected four runners-up to go through to the next stage of the competition, including Medi-pod, a self-cooling transportation pod for medical supplies via aerial drones; 20:20, a universal timepiece for people who are visually impaired; GO, a therapeutic horse-riding aid for users with autism, cerebral palsy, MS, Downs syndrome and muscular dystrophy; and Equaliser, an advanced, developed system to prevent unequal tensile loads on cranes.

Posted in Innovation, Medical Research, R&D NewsComments (0)

Irish Government invest €5m in new pharma manufacturing tech centre

Ireland’s Government is to invest €5m over the next five years in a new Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology Centre (PMTC) that will be headquartered at the University of Limerick.

Damien English, TD, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, launched the centre today.

PMTC is the latest of 15 state-supported technology centresestablished jointly by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. The centre brings together 24 industry partners and nine Higher Education Institutes that will deliver the research.

PMTC will deliver advanced technology solutions to contemporary manufacturing issues challenging the Irish pharmaceutical sector.

The aim of PMTC is to make Ireland the global hub of pharmaceutical process innovation and manufacturing and ultimately support an industry that directly employs more than 25,000 people.

Manufacturing cost competitiveness and patent expiry are among the two most critical issues threatening the future of this industry, which contributes more than €40bn in Irish exports per annum.

“The pharmaceutical industry is a very important provider of employment and growth in Ireland’s economy,” English said.

“This joint initiative of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland to make the pharma industry more competitive and efficient is most welcome. The fact that the research agenda is defined and informed by the companies involving both Irish SMEs and multinationals gives strength to the industry’s effort to tackle challenges such as the patents cliff and manufacturing competitiveness.”

The industry consortium comprises a mix of indigenous multinational pharmaceutical companies and SMEs, including Alkermes, Allergan Pharmaceutical, Applied Process Consulting, Astellas, Bristol-Myers Squibb Swords, Crest Solutions, Eli Lilly, Gilead, GSK, Helsinn Birex, Innopharma Labs, Janssen, Label Art, Leo Pharma, Merck Sharp Dohme, Pfizer, Process Analytics, Roche, Servier, Sigmoid Pharma, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Techno-Path, Teva Pharmaceuticals and TopChem Pharma.

Posted in Healthcare, Medical Research, News, R&D Investment, R&D News, University InvestmentComments (0)

Lack of venture capital and Skills shortage could cost thousands of software jobs

Ireland’s vibrant and growing software industry risks losing thousands of new jobs to other countries because of the shortage of suitable skills here.

That is according to a study carried out by the Lero Software Engineering Research Centre and Kemmy Business Schools at the University of Limerick.

It also found that access to venture capital is another major impediment to the growth of software companies here.

It aimed to analyse key competitiveness trends in the software industry here.

Its interim report describes a vibrant, fast growing Irish software industry with tremendous potential, though with big differences between indigenous and foreign firms.

80% of software companies in Ireland are Irish, with a quarter of those less than three years old, and more than half having five or fewer software engineering staff.

On the other hand, a quarter of foreign software firms have been here over 15 years, but only one in ten has five or fewer staff involved in engineering.

However, when it comes to challenges, experiences are similar.

Skills are in short supply, with as many as half of all vacancies filled by inward migration.

While access to second stage venture capital is also in short supply.

The authors warn that despite the growth potential, unless the challenges are met, there is a risk thousands of new jobs at Irish based software firms will be created outside the country.

Posted in IT Research, News, R&D Investment, R&D NewsComments (0)


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