On World Heart Day, EIT Health celebrates the innovations the EIT community is driving to help improve cardiovascular health across Europe.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes 3.9 million deaths in Europe every year. It is one of society’s biggest challenges as well as a significant economic burden; with an estimated cost to the EU of over EUR 210 billion per year.
Yet CVD – which includes heart attacks and strokes – is largely preventable, if citizens are aware of their risk factors (e.g., physical inactivity and obesity) and make changes to mitigate them.
According to the European Heart Network:
- 45 per cent of all deaths in Europe are caused by CVD
- 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable
- Dietary factors make the largest contribution to the risk of CVD mortality
EIT Health supports inventions
EIT Health’s mission is to enable European citizens to lead longer, healthier lives, and it actively supports the development of innovations that aim to improve cardiac health. The variety of projects the community supports encompasses everything from preventative measures to aid cardiovascular disease management, projects dedicated to the promotion of healthy living to keep hearts healthy, and solutions that can be used to detect disease and help diagnosed patients to manage their condition.
EIT Health finds new ways of addressing the growing challenge of CVD by collaborating with healthcare’s leading players to design and develop innovative solutions, programmes, and initiatives, as well as by creating and scaling the most promising new companies working to fight this pressing health burden.
EIT Health believes innovation is the answer to some of the challenges posed by CVD, and strives to support transformational solutions to aid optimal prevention, treatment and management. We bring together the brightest minds from the worlds of business, research and education to accelerate cutting-edge advancements, putting innovation in the hands of those who may benefit.
Jan-Philipp Beck, CEO of EIT Health
EIT Health projects addressing cardiovascular disease
From a mobile app that detects irregular heartbeats and helps prevent strokes, to digital software that helps stroke survivors in their rehabilitation, here are some of the EIT Health-supported innovations helping European citizens to improve their quality of life and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
The app that is helping to prevent stroke: FibriCheck
FibriCheck is the world’s first medically-certified mobile app designed to prevent stroke.
Co-founded by Bieke Van Gorp, 2018 EIT Venture Award winner, and Lars Grieten in Belgium, FibriCheck can help prevent stroke by detecting atrial fibrillation, a leading cause of stroke, and other heart rhythm disorders using only a smartphone or smartwatch.
The app works simply by having a user place a finger on the smartphone’s camera. The app measures a person’s heart rhythm for one minute and gives them a detailed report and immediate actionable results, reviewed by FibriCheck’s team of medical experts. Users can then track their heart rhythm history and look back on how it has changed.
FibriCheck was the first app for atrial fibrillation to ever receive a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and designation as a diagnostic device, which reveals its potentially life-saving impact. It can now also be used by clinicians across Europe following its European Conformity (CE) medical approval. Over 130 000 people have so far been screened using the app.
FibriCheck received crucial early stage financial support from EIT Health including training, and access to its vast network in order to increase their potential to bring their innovative solution to the market.
The first cardiac implant to treat strokes: AuriGen Medical
Irish company AuriGen Medical has developed the first cardiac implant to treat both the stroke and arrhythmia risk associated with persistent atrial fibrillation.
AuriGen Medical employs single-use sensors and software algorithms to give doctors feedback on the quality of an ablation cardiac treatment that corrects certain types of abnormal heart rhythms. This results in potentially increasing the treatment success rates and reducing procedure times.
The award-winning cardiac implant was part of the EIT Health-supported fellowship programme BioInnovate Ireland and has since secured significant funding, which will be used to advance product development in preparation for the first human trials of the device in 2020.
The device could provide significant savings to healthcare providers, reducing the need for repeat ablations. Roughly eight million patients across Europe are affected by persistent irregular heartbeat and AuriGen Medical believes its device could help the majority of patients.
The first software based stroke rehabilitation therapy: Vigo
Vigo is digital therapeutic software created in order to aid the recovery process of stroke survivors.
Stroke is associated with physical, psychological and economic burdens, all of which require significant care, consideration and rehabilitation. Receiving rehabilitation has been shown to improve functional outcomes, decrease mortality and reduce the length of hospital stays. However, stroke survivors often require long-term rehabilitation, which isn’t always easily accessible.
Vigo supplies the user with important information about life after a stroke. The solution recognises how stroke survivors might be feeling, providing advice and support and equipping them with the skills they may need to tackle the many challenges they face in the wake of a stroke. The software offers the most effective psychotherapy tools, which are generally unavailable long term to the majority of stroke survivors, including those based on counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Kristaps Krafte, 2019 EIT Change Award nominee, created Vigo after completing an EIT Health Innovation in Healthcare Masters programme.
A programme offering free cardiovascular disease screenings: #ProtectUrLife
#ProtectUrLife is a pan-European engagement programme focused on preventing life-changing events by helping people to better understand their health status via free screenings, which could benefit millions in maintaining good heart and bone health.
A growing European project, #ProtectUrLife will take place in five major cities this year, including Lucerne, Malaga, Munich, Paris and Rimini. The #ProtectUrLife events are free, quick, and open to all adults.
At each location, citizens benefit from basic screening tests to assess the health of their heart and bones, with each assessment taking only 20 minutes or less. They will also have the chance to evaluate their results on the day, with the help of healthcare professionals, and access a variety of materials around healthy living.
A number of partners from the EIT Health network supported the programme, enabling it to take place.
A community outreach roadshow: HeaLIQs 4 Cities
Healthy Lifestyle Innovation Quarters for Cities and Citizens (HeaLIQs) is a co-created community outreach that brings together citizens, SMEs, local government and academia into the 'Healthy Living Room', an open forum for learning and discussion focused on a healthy lifestyle. In 2019, the Healthy Living Room will be moved inside a bus, so that it can reach citizens in rural areas and other neighbourhoods with low health literacy.
Citizens can be provided with a general assessment of lifestyle factors and receive healthy lifestyle recommendations in the field of nutrition, physical activity and exercise, social cohesion and mental health.
HeaLIQs4Cities is coordinated by EIT Health Partners - the Pedro Nunes Institute (IPN) (Coimbra), in collaboration with the University of Coimbra (UC) and the University Medical Center of Groningen (UMCG), and counts upon the active participation of citizens, academia, healthcare enterprises and local government from the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal.
A safer, more effective heart implant: CroiValve
CroíValve is a potentially life-saving, less invasive device, that can be implanted into the hearts of patients who have Tricuspid Regurgitation (TR), a common heart valve disorder. CroíValve is safer, more effective, less traumatic and easier to deliver than competing technologies, as has been proven through extensive pre-clinical testing supported by EIT Health.
TR occurs in heart failure patients due to tricuspid valve dilation. It is a severe cardiac disease with progressive symptoms, eventually leading to heart failure and death. Because the vast majority of patients are elderly and too frail for the existing type of surgery used, less than 1 per cent of patients receive surgical treatment. The primary treatment method is medical management with diuretics.
CroíValve’s solution is far less invasive: it is delivered through a vein into the heart and restores the function of the tricuspid valve, while preserving the native anatomy. An innovative adjustable anchor holds it in position without the use of traumatic hooks or barbs.
Recognised as a start-up that will revolutionise the healthcare market in UK and Ireland, Croívalve was awarded winner of the EIT Health 2018 Headstart Funding Programme.