NUIG based Biomedical Engineer Oisín McGrath has been awarded a €500k grant to bring to market a convenient and reliable wrist-worn device that will help to reduce the risk of stroke or heart failure.
The ‘Galenband’ device monitors the heart activity of people with atrial fibrillation, detecting any symptoms that may indicate a person is at risk of a stroke or heart failure.
Atrial fibrillation occurs when the electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats don’t work properly, causing the heart to beat irregularly.
Despite the fact that this condition affects tens of millions of people around the world, the often infrequent symptoms can be very hard to detect because of their short period of activity.
This device provides an invaluable tool to doctors because of its ability to be worn discretely and unobtrusively for extended periods of time, whilst continually capturing data.
That makes it capable of drastically increasing the rate at which symptoms are caught, potentially catching life threatening conditions that might otherwise escape notice.
The initial inspiration for the project came from Oisín McGrath’s own personal experiences with heart arrhythmia, after suffering with an undiagnosed condition for 13 years.
A standard response when a doctor suspects there might be a case of heart arrhythmia is to issue a 24-48-hour heart monitor in order to capture the symptoms.
This might work in ideal conditions but in Oisín’s case his symptoms were often spaced out by a week or more, causing his condition to escape notice for year.
Over time this caused him a great deal of mental anguish, high financial costs, and a potential danger to his life from a stroke or heart failure.
Eventually he needed a cardiac pacing procedure to diagnose what 11 separate heart monitors had failed to detect.
From this experience, Oisín recognised that a change in recording strategy was required in order to increase the efficacy of non-invasive symptom detection methods.
In 2010, shortly after his cardiac pacing procedure, Oisín began work on the earliest version of what would become ‘Galenband’.
This work became the focus of his undergraduate and master’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering.
Galenband was the first Irish project ever to chosen for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology IDEA² Global program.
It won the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) award for research in the field of medical engineering, and won the Technology category of the 2019 Universal Design Grand Challenge.
The €500,000 award from Enterprise Ireland will allow Oisín to further develop this project for commercialisation.
Speaking about the grant, Oisín said that it was an endorsement of the level of teaching and research in Biomedical Engineering at NUIG.
“With the support of academic staff and the Technology Transfer Office in NUI Galway, and the funding received from Enterprise Ireland, Galenband will press forward in an effort to change the lives of atrial fibrillation patients on a global scale.”