Wales-based companies CanSense and IQ Endoscopes have progressed to Phase Two of the Endoscopy Challenge, which aims to accelerate the delivery of endoscopy procedures and reduce waiting times for patients. The Challenge is led by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s (CAV UHB) Shaping Change team, and supported by a £750k grant from the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) Challenge Fund.
Following a competitive procurement process, Shaping Change worked with the two potential solution providers to develop their concepts in Phase One. At the end of Phase Two, expected to take up to eight months, the companies are looking to deliver a strong solution that can then be implemented and evaluated in a real world setting in Phase Three.
CanSense are developing a non-invasive blood-based test for diagnosis of bowel cancer which will help prioritise patients with the greatest need on the endoscopy waiting list. In Phase One, they conducted research activities with key stakeholders (patients, clinicians and endoscopy unit staff). The overall response was positive, with 64% of patient respondents from Wales saying they would have a blood test as an alternative to a colonoscopy if it was proven to be accurate.
In Phase Two, CanSense will take samples from different biobanks to further refine an algorithm-based blood test signal. This will also incorporate metadata to create an accurate risk score to prioritise those people at most at risk on waiting lists and improve outcomes. Alongside this activity, the company are working through their UKCA/CE accreditation and exploring both public and private healthcare routes to market
IQ Endoscopes are developing single-use flexible endoscopes to reduce the time used in the decontamination process and allow clinicians to complete the procedure in different settings. In Phase One, they commissioned an independent ESG evaluation to understand the environmental concerns around single-use endoscopes.
The next stage is working with CAV UHB to identify the most appropriate use cases for single-use endoscopes, and carry out baseline calculations of efficiency of the care pathway and predicted benefits. The company will also progress a sustainability solution to ensure their product is able to be adopted by NHS Wales.
An endoscopy is a diagnostic procedure to examine the inside of the body by inserting a camera at the end of a tube. After each use, the technology needs to be decontaminated, which is time consuming, costly and limits the number of patients that can be seen. The Endoscopy Challenge began in September 2022 as a response to the long waitlist for endoscopies in Wales, currently at approximately 30,000.
Mark Briggs, Assistant Director of Innovation at CAV UHB said: “I’m pleased that we have been able to support both CanSense and IQ Endoscopes to progress to the next phase of activity within the challenge. They both offer very different and complementary approaches that have potential to help remove the need or waiting time for specific endoscopic procedures. I hope that the next phase will also prove to be successful and that we will be able to help support the development of the approaches and products further.”
Cheryl Moore, Programme Manager at the CCR Challenge Fund, said: “It’s exciting to see Welsh companies developing innovative products that address a vital problem in the health system, with a focus on beneficial patient outcomes. The Endoscopy Challenge demonstrates the mutual benefits of a challenge-led approach for both public services and ambitious companies, and we are pleased to be supporting this project.”