Principal Investigator: Prof Sudesh Sivarasu

An overview of UCT MedTech

The UCT MedTech Laboratory, led by Professor Sudesh Sivarasu, is an interdisciplinary team which comprises the Medical Device Laboratory (MDL) and Orthopaedic Biomechanics Laboratory (OBL).

The overarching principle of both laboratories is innovation conversion using the frugal biodesign process, turning innovation into downstream value. This ensures that all research and technologies developed are aimed to improve access and value to the suitable user and/or research target group and ensure better healthcare delivery.

More information can be found on the MedTech Lab's web page.

The UCT MedTech laboratory is currently comprised of twenty postgraduate researchers and nine employees. 

By 2021, 22 MSc graduates (with 11 awarded distinctions), 5 PhD graduates, and 2 postdoctoral fellows within the UCT MedTech laboratory were produced. Currently, the UCT MedTech Laboratory has 7 PhD students, 13 MSc/MPhil students and 1 postdoctoral fellow. 

OBL and MDL have individually contributed their unique value in terms of their research and innovation within the UCT MedTech Laboratory. 

Four employees form part of the UCT MedTech engineering design team and are currently developing the UCvenT Non-Invasive Ventilator.  The core purpose of the ventilator is to provide treatment to patients with breathing problems caused by Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses. An Emergency Use Approval (EUA) South African Health Products Regulatory Approval (SAHPRA) submission has been made with the functional UCvenT prototype. The team is currently working on transforming the current functional prototype from a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 4/5 to a TRL 6/7 with the main objective to bring ventilation support out of inaccessible hospitals to allow transient treatment in the field or emergency transport ventilation while the patient is brought to a hospital.

Overall, UCT MedTech has applied for 20 patent families and 64 patent applications. There have been 22 granted patents, with 3 in the United Kingdom, 5 in the Republic of South Africa, 3 in the United States of America, 3 in India and 7 in the European Union. In terms of publications, UCT MedTech has contributed to 3 book chapters, 47 peer-reviewed international journal publications and 50 national/international conference publications.

Orthopaedic Biomechanics Laboratory (OBL)

About 90% of the orthopaedic implants used in South Africa are imported. Generic bone plates and screws, skeletal pins and wires, etc. are manufactured in South Africa but contribute less than 10% of the total health expenditure towards orthopaedic implants. Research focusing on orthopaedic biomechanical devices was initiated in the later part of 2013 by OBL. The OBL research aligns well with the MRC’s goal of promoting health and quality of life through innovation and technology development and transfer through, through local production of health technologies.

The OBL has contributed significantly to the orthopaedics and biomechanics space, including local and international conferences and peer-reviewed international journal publications. OBL has housed postgraduate researchers focused on investigating joint biomechanics (pre-dominantly shoulder joint). This research has been supervised and supported by OBL co-founder and orthopaedic surgeon Professor Stephen Roche. This clinical collaboration has enabled the laboratory to develop solutions for orthopaedic problems for a South African population with African solutions.

So far, the OBL has produced 3 doctoral researchers and 2 master’s graduates. Currently, the lab houses 1 postdoctoral fellow and 4 doctoral students (see team members in the table above). Over the past few years, the lab has secured funding from the National Research Foundation and Medical Research Council. The research students in the lab have also been funded by the University of Cape Town, the National Research Foundation South Africa, and the International Society of Biomechanics. The OBL works closely with the orthopaedic surgeons from the Orthopaedic Research Unit, Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town. OBL provides them with support in the domains of research, data analysis and pre-surgical planning. The OBL collaborates with the Medical Image Inferencing and Distributed Diagnostics (MI2D2) group at the Division of Biomedical Engineering and the Laboratory for Medical Information Processing (LaTIM), CHRU de Brest, France, on research topics that involve automatic segmentation, statistical shape modelling, and image processing. In the past, the OBL has also collaborated with the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), New York, the USA on research projects involving shoulder biomechanics.

Medical Device Laboratory (MDL)

Medical devices are indispensable for preventing, diagnosing, treating illness and disease and rehabilitation. To ensure access to appropriate medical devices, researchers must understand the specific needs of the country, region, community, or facility. UCT’s MDL implements the Frugal Biodesign approach for developing appropriate medical devices in low-resource settings. The MDL team works with local clinicians to ensure the design addresses the clinical need. The lab has developed many life-changing devices in conjunction with the novel research and publications that MDL has produced. Several of them are patented and reach the end-user. The MDL has been the house of several MedTech innovations coming out of UCT. The work is summarized under the following broader themes: Allergy related medical devices, Medical Devices for TB, Ventilator / Ventilation solutions, Diagnostic /Clinical Medical Devices and Rehabilitation /Assistive devices.

Contact UCT MedTech

Tasneem Isaacs

Administrative Assistant
 tasneem.isaacs@uct.ac.za / medicaldevices@uct.ac.za
 021 650 4804