09:08am Thursday 27 February 2020

New ultrasound to save heart patients

Center leader Thor Edvardsen and his colleagues conducts research on improving diagnostics and treatment of heart problems. Photo: Andreas B. Johansen Center leader Thor Edvardsen and his colleagues conducts research on improving diagnostics and treatment of heart problems. (Photo: Andreas B. Johansen) “In recent years we have seen an increase in sudden deaths resulting from cardiological disorders. In the US alone there are 500 000 new cases of these disorders a year,” says Thor Edvardsen, a professor at the Oslo University Hospital and leader of the Center for Cardiological Innovation (CCI).


Norway’s newest Centre for Research-based Innovation (SFI) will combine existing and new technology to develop improved methods of diagnosing and treating heart-failure or cardiac-arrest patients.

There are currently 21 centres that have received status as SFI centres, and their activities span a wide range of research fields. The Research Council of Norway is responsible for conferral of SFI status and administration of the funding scheme.

Accurate diagnosis and better treatment

Among people under 40 years of age who die suddenly of heart disease, the most common cause of death is arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). This disruption of heart rhythm is widespread, even in seemingly healthy, physically active persons – including top athletes.

For the after-40 age group, myocardial infarction (heart attack) takes the front seat as the leading cause of such sudden death.

The CCI model (Illustration: Simula Research Laboratory)

The CCI model. Illustration: Simula Research Laboratory

The Center for Cardiological Innovation will work on both conditions. Next-generation cardiological ultrasound will enable more accurate diagnosis and improved treatment. One of the centre’s objectives is to develop better methods of using implanted defibrillators, so that patients are spared unnecessary jolts.

Commercialisation to save lives

There is high demand on the Norwegian and international markets.
“Our overall objective is, of course, to help patients,” says Professor Edvardsen. “But a specific objective for CCI’s activities is commercialising the research.”

Center coordinator Eigil Samset. Photo: Andreas B. Johansen Center coordinator Eigil Samset (Photo: Andreas B. Johansen) Center coordinator Eigil Samset of the company GE Vingmed Ultrasound, a key player in the field, points out that “developing technology and new methods in academia alone has its limitations. For new treatment methods to reach a large number of patients, cooperation with the market’s major players is needed.”


He believes that the SFI structure, under which academia and industry can collaborate at a goal-oriented centre, provides the opportunity to combine the former’s long-term approach with the latter’s more immediate needs.

“The funding we receive under the SFI scheme lowers our risk and allows us to continue development and commercialisation of research results – far better than other funding schemes. The SFI status is a critical catalyst for long-term value creation and jobs,” adds Dr Samset.

Anne Kjersti Fahlvik. Photo: Andreas B. Johansen Anne Kjersti Fahlvik (Photo: Andreas B. Johansen) Elite innovators

“The opening of a new SFI is a rare occurrence and a great pleasure,” said Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Executive Director of the Research Council’s Division for Innovation, at the centre’s opening ceremony. “In the innovation world, winning SFI status is like qualifying for the Olympics.”

Ms Fahlvik emphasises the importance of close collaboration between top researchers and the best companies, which is precisely what the SFI scheme is designed to facilitate.

“The SFI scheme is the flagship instrument in the Research Council’s innovation portfolio. I am pleased to cite CCI as an example of the best Norwegian industry-oriented research.”


The Center for Cardiological Innovation (CCI)

CCI is one of seven new Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFIs) started up in 2011. The centre’s objective is to contribute to increased value creation through developing next-generation ultrasound systems for application in cardiology. CCI will combine existing and new technology to develop improved diagnostics and treatment of patients at risk for sudden heart failure or cardiac arrest.

The new SFI is a collaborative effort between Oslo University Hospital, Simula Research Laboratory, the University of Oslo, and the industry players GE Vingmed Ultrasound, CardioSolv and Kalkulo. CCI has a budget of roughly NOK 210 million over eight years. NOK 80 million of this is to be allocated via the Research Council of Norway.


The SFI scheme

The Research Council has now established 21 Centres for Research-based Innovation. These centres combine academic expertise and business acumen to play a leading role in their fields.

The objective of the SFI scheme is to strengthen the innovative capability of Norwegian industry through cooperation between research institutions and R&D-intensive companies. The scheme has no thematic limitations regarding research area. Internationalisation capabilities are one of the key elements in the assessment of applicants for SFI status.

The total budget for all 21 centres for the entire duration of their funding periods is nearly NOK 5 billion, of which NOK 1.6 billion is allocated by the Research Council of Norway.


Written by:
Andreas B. Johansen/Else Lie. Translation: Darren McKellep/Carol B. Eckmann

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