Awards finalists put science to work

Ian Jones: Innopharma Labs’ Eyecon is a 3D particle characteriser giving live particle size and shape information

Ian Jones: Innopharma Labs’ Eyecon is a 3D particle characteriser giving live particle size and shape information


The three finalists in the life sciences section of The Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards make this a most competitive category

Horseware Ireland Ice-Vibe Boot

Whether you have a multimillion-euro thoroughbred racehorse or a family pony, the last thing you want is to see them injured. Ice-Vibe is a ground-breaking ice therapy vibration boot for horses, helping to prevent tendon injuries and realign tendon fibres after injury. The boot, which is sold under the Horseware Ireland brand, is the brainchild of Louisa Williams.

“One of the downsides of the racing industry is the high injury rate, especially with regard to tendon injuries. The treatments are very expensive and invasive so I wanted to come up with a better solution,” Williams says.

While working for racehorse trainer Charlie Swan, Williams noticed a lot of high-performance horses were having to be put down due to tendon injuries.

“Horses’ lower legs have a very poor blood flow and this is not helped by the fact that high-performance horses spend 90 per cent of their time in stables. Some 30 per cent of high-performance horses get tendon injuries and half will not recover from them.”

She spent 12 months researching tendon injuries and the importance of keeping the blood circulating, before coming up with the Ice-Vibe solution.

The boots are rechargeable vibrating boots that help to boost circulation in horses’ legs by creating a massage effect. The “cold pack” element of the boot prevents inflammation by resisting blood flow, which in turn will help slow down the metabolism.

Apica ASC System

With an ever-increasing aging population in the US, Europe and Asia, the incidence of cardiovascular and cardiac disease is growing. Degenerative aortic stenosis is the most common heart valve disease and is estimated to affect 2.5 million people in the US alone. Complications of surgery to replace the aortic valve include death, stroke, heart attack, bleeding and infection.

The valve becomes calcified with age and doesn’t work as well, leading to a regurgitation of blood, according to Brendan Cunniffe, director of research and development at Apica.

Aortic valve replacements are usually done by accessing the left ventricle of the heart through the rib cage, which can lead to significant blood loss. The surgery is invasive and the standard operation time is 90 minutes. The Apica access and closure system simplifies the technique used to open and close the apex of a beating heart, in order to deliver valve replacements into the inner chambers of the heart in a minimally invasive manner.

“The trials have been 100 per cent successful so far with no blood loss or leakage. The device has also reduced the operating time by 30 minutes,” Cunniffe says.

Blood supplies are not abundant and blood costs money to obtain and store, so avoiding blood loss wherever possible is a huge plus, he adds.

Innopharma Labs Eyecon

From coffee to sugar, paracetamol to washing powder, granules are everywhere, and they all need to be a certain size and shape, depending on the end product.

Eyecon, a product of Innopharma Labs, is a real-time 3D particle characteriser capable of giving live particle size and shape information. The device helps food and pharmaceutical companies control steps, such as the addition of water, in food and tablet processing.

“If baby formula granules are not the right size and shape they may not dissolve properly in water, creating lumpy milk. That is why the size and shape of granules is very important,” says Ian Jones, chief executive of Innopharma Labs.

“Governments are putting pressure on companies to reduce prices so they need to be smarter in manufacturing. It must be as lean as possible, with very high yields.”

The Eyecon product is also being used by universities to analyse data quicker.

“In the past it might have taken them half a day to do analysis but it takes only 30 minutes with our system. Researchers have more time to spend interpreting the data.”

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