EU Funding to Support Critical New Surgical Technologies for COVID-19
Irish SME and UCD behind new COVID medical device innovation
DUBLIN, 30 October 2020: An R&D project to develop new technology to protect surgeons and patients from COVID-19 has received €2.4 million funding from the European Commission. The rapid 18-month consortium project, PORSAV, is being led by Irish medical technology SME Palliare and project manager Pintail Ltd, in collaboration with University College Dublin, as well as Polish medical device manufacturer SteriPack and leading French institution for surgical training IRCAD.
When surgeons perform laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery, surgical instruments and cameras are operated through a tube that holds the incision open. The patient’s body is inflated with carbon dioxide gas, to give the surgeon room to see and to operate. However, small amounts of this gas can escape, and these aerosols can contain viral particles, endangering surgeons and depositing the virus on operating room surfaces.
The threat of these viral aerosols has a huge impact on the frequency and availability of surgery, appropriate safety protocols, and the time it takes to clean the operating room between procedures.
With the aid of the critical new EU funding, the PORSAV project will address this problem through a new technological solution – developed by bringing together the expertise of European leaders in medical device manufacturing, and academic leaders in digital surgery and engineering research and innovation.
Palliare has developed a vacuum ring, the LeakTrapTM, which captures stray air leaks that occur around the edge of the keyhole surgery tube or the incision, and pipes potentially infectious air away for correct disposal. A similar device, the EndoTrapTM, protects gastroenterologists performing endoscopies from the breath, coughing or sneezing of their patients. The PORSAV project will produce thousands of LeakTraps and EndoTraps to be used in operating rooms around the world.
UCD researchers will carry out extensive clinical validation of the new products. Dr Kevin Nolan from UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering brings optical expertise to develop portable, innovative imaging technology for the operating room, to accurately characterise and measure the potentially hazardous invisible gas leaks. The UCD Digital Surgery unit, led by Professor Ronan Cahill, will then carry out clinical trials in conjunction with the Mater Hospital to test Palliare’s new devices in real time.
Investigators Prof Bernard Dallemagne and Prof Silvana Perretta will direct a second trial at IRCAD in France and will use the new technology and information to train surgeons around the world on how to reduce the risks of COVID-19 in the operating room.
SteriPack will mass-produce the disposable tubing in Poland, while the vacuum technology is manufactured by Palliare in Galway. Pintail will provide project management and administrative support.
Palliare co-founder, John O’Dea said: “For several months after the pandemic started, surgical procedures stopped due to concerns around risks to hospital staff from aerosolized virus. We are delighted to have assembled such an outstanding multi-disciplinary team and are grateful to the European Commission for the support to conduct this research and development project aiming to make surgery safer during this and future pandemics. Surgery can’t stop!”
“Our experience in Med Tech innovation has always been that the progress of any significant medical device hinges on the collaboration of passionate clinicians and passionate engineers. Palliare has found such a passion for clinical innovation in surgery and for active publication in Professor Ronan Cahill at UCD and Professors Perretta and Dallemagne at IRCAD in Strasbourg. We are excited about moving forward in researching and trialling new surgical devices with these innovative physicians.”
UCD Centre for Precision Surgery
Led by Professor Ronan Cahill, the UCD Centre for Precision Surgery brings together clinicians, researchers and industry to enhance the field of surgery, including Ireland’s first Digital Surgery Unit at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital. The centre works closely with UCD Anatomy, UCD Biomedical Engineering and UCD Computer Science, as well as with the Royal College of Surgeons In Ireland.
Based in Galway, Ireland, Palliare is dedicated to advancing the state of the art in smoke evacuation and insufflation technologies for laparoscopic, endolumenal, endoscopic and robotic surgery.
PORSAV is a project that emanated out of early collaborative work between John O’Dea of Irish SME Palliare and Professor Ronan Cahill. The early work took place in Ireland at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, when, in most parts of the world, laparoscopic surgery was shutting down due to perceived risks to staff from COVID-19 infection. It is not practical for surgery to stop in the face of such pandemics, yet the issue of reinstating surgery has been in the background up to now. There is an urgent need to study the nature and risks associated with standard surgical practice in the face of aerosolized COVID-19 virus, potentially infecting staff due to gas leaks from the abdomen during surgery.
Protecting healthcare staff and preserving key clinical practice is a key WHO priority area for the immediate term in the COVID-19 pandemic, and also after the pandemic ends, in the new practice landscape, where COVID-19 will be widespread for the foreseeable future.
25% of COVID-19 infections are in healthcare staff, with the greatest risk relating to those performing aerosolising procedures.
PORSAV aims to make the new devices available within 12 months of project commencement, as a key objective.
The Mater Hospital in Dublin will be one of the first sites in the world to trial these technologies.