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Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

Royal Society Award to NAMRIP team for StarHealer

Published: 20 March 2018
royal society

At The Royal Society’s ‘Labs to Riches’ dinner on 20 March 2018, Professor Timothy Leighton was presented with the Royal Society’s Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation Translation Award, for the StarHealer invention. His Royal Highness, The Duke of York, KG, GCVO, CD presented the award.

StarHealer uses an ultrasonic signal to stimulate wound healing at a greatly accelerated rate – an invention prefigured in the 60s TV series ‘Star Trek’ when Dr McCoy treated all wounds with his whirring ‘Dermal Regenerator’. Persistent flesh wounds, like diabetic ulcers are a serious and costly problem. For example the NHS spends £1 billion annually on amputations alone, because of chronic wounds that do not respond to treatment. When one considers the victims of burns, road traffic accidents and other wounds on top of that, the potential for a technology with the wound healing capacity of StarHealer is very great.


prince andrew
Tim Leighton (l.) and other award winners with Prince Andrew (2nd r.)

Professor Leighton paid tribute to his research team at the University of Southampton and said: “In no way can I accept this award as an individual. Taking a concept from the basic mathematics and physics through to the engineering, the microbiological testing and the current planning for clinical trials, is a multidisciplinary venture requiring many hands. I thank the team: my Co-I, Dr David Voegeli from Health Sciences for his nursing and wound expertise; Tom Secker from Natural and Environmental Sciences for his microbiology expertise; my engineering colleague, Craig Dolder; and my doctoral student Kit Harling, who will be taking StarHealer through the required stages of development and permissions during his PhD. Then there is my NAMRIP colleague, Bill Keevil from Natural and Environmental Sciences, who has been a tremendous support with the microbiology. With all this team work we envisage the technology being used on the first NHS patients within 2 years”.

However Professor Leighton also sounded a note of caution, warning of the hard slog ahead of the team, saying: “We are climbing the mountain of iteratively improving the device whilst simultaneously conducting wound healing tests and preparing for the regulatory framework for StarHealer’s deployment.” 

The NHS is not the only realm where the team plan to trial StarHealer. Professor Leighton and one of his PhD students, Mengyang Zhu, have just returned from rural Ghana where they started building the consortium of convinced individuals to allow StarHealer to be deployed in clinics and on the motorbikes of the nurses of the Ghana Heath Service’s Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) programme, which is a national strategy to deliver essential community-based health services to remote rural areas. 

Getting the NHS on board, and overcoming the difficulties of deploying a medical device in rural Ghana, are not the end of the story. As Professor Leighton explained: “When we have the teams ready to use StarHealers on patients, whether in an NHS ward or on the motorbikes of the CHPS nurses, I need to be able to supply enough StarHealer devices, and they need to be rugged and have passed all the regulatory, safety and ethical tests. They need to be affordable, and identical, because we must have reliable statistics on what benefit they bring to a community, and you cannot get good statistics using a handful of devices on a few patients.  How I plan to solve the problem of building hundreds of affordable devices to be ready on time, is a story for another day”.



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