Researcher’s smart dressing for wounds closer to commercialization

smartphone capturing image of green and red squares on dressing affixed to white gloved hand of Akbari in a white lab coat
Mohsen Akbari models GelDerm smart dressing for smartphone app analysis

2019 October — A UVic biomedical engineer’s “smart dressing” for wounds will soon be produced in the thousands for testing, thanks to an award that helps researchers commercialize their innovations.

Mohsen Akbari recently won the Michael Smith Foundation’s Innovation to Commercialization Award to further his work on GelDerm, an advanced dressing embedded with tiny sensors that change colour when wounds become infected. GelDerm’s ability to monitor pH levels, detect bacterial growth, and localize antibiotic treatment means potentially life-threatening infections are identified and treated quickly.

“The award is very important for us and will bring us close to clinical trials,” said Akbari, who anticipates that trials with humans will begin around the end of the funding, which provides $150,000 over each of two years.

“I hope we can get this into the market soon to help people,” he said. “Infected wounds can lead to pain, amputation, and extended hospital stays, which can be very difficult and uncomfortable for the patient, and very expensive for both the patient and the medical system.”

Wound management is a major health challenge that poses a significant financial burden to the healthcare system. Akbari’s GelDerm is expected to be particularly helpful for people with wounds related to diabetes, spinal cord injury, burns and surgery, as well as those who live in areas with limited access to medical care and those with mobility challenges.

Akbari says the funding will help commercialization efforts in three important ways:

  • by supporting the complex, lengthy approval process involved in bringing any medical device to market in North America;
  • by “scaling up” the product’s manufacturing methodology, so his lab can produce thousands of dressings at a time instead of just a handful; and
  • by helping his team finalize the product’s packaging, sterilization and long-term shelf-life.

GelDerm includes an app that provides information both for the patient’s self-monitoring and for the medical team. Using a smartphone, the patient takes a photo of the wound dressing. The app then uses the image to gauge whether the dressing’s colour has changed enough to require an in-person medical consultation. This information is then relayed wirelessly to the patient’s healthcare team.

Currently, Akbari is consulting with a group of Royal Jubilee Hospital doctors and nurses, who are providing feedback on GelDerm. The product will also be provided to select veterinary clinics for use on injured pets, since medical products for animals don’t require as many regulatory approvals. Data collected will support the dressing’s pre-clinical trials, which are expected to begin in October 2020.

Ultimately, GelDerm will be commercialized through 4M BioTech Ltd., a company formed in January 2018 and located in UVic’s Innovation Centre. Now with five employees, 4M BioTech collaborates with Akbari’s Laboratory for Innovations in Microengineering (LiME) at UVic.

2019Oct01 AT