Life Sciences Hub Wales

Welcome to the 2023 round-up of Inspiring Innovation! Inspiring Innovation is our monthly round-up of news from a thriving innovation landscape collated by our Sector Intelligence Team. This special edition of Inspiring Innovation will look back at some of the highlights of 2023. 

Inspiring Innovation/Ysbrydoli Arloesedd

This year, we’ve seen incredible progress in improving Alzheimer’s treatment and cancer diagnostics, funding from Welsh Government for more Allied Health Professionals to improve access to community-based care, collaboration between Cardiff University and Siemens Healthineers to develop advanced medical technologies, advancements in assistive AI technology, and well-deserved recognition for life science companies at the 2023 Wales STEM Awards. Read on to find out more about some of this year’s most exciting developments.  


Artificial intelligence reads complex medical imagery 

Researchers from Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics developed an innovative AI system that analyses mammograms. 

In collaboration with radiologists from Breast Test Wales, University Hospital of Wales, and Great Ormond Street Hospital, researchers were able to train the AI algorithm using recorded eye movement from expert radiologists. In creating a robust system capable of accurately predicting what areas to focus on when preparing a diagnosis, this system holds potential to reduce error risk by radiologists and help to prioritise patients with abnormal scans. 

In the future, this system could be used to help radiologist trainees identify areas of a scan that are potentially relevant, or to develop a tool for assessing experienced trainees by comparing their analysis of scans to the AI. 

Dr Hantao Liu, co-author of the study, said: 

"With all of the challenges facing the NHS, it is important that we look to data science and AI for possible solutions. This doesn’t mean replacing people with robots but instead demonstrates how machine learning can support and augment the work of clinical professionals."

Judi Rhys, Chief Executive Officer of Tenovus, added: 

"[AI's] potential use in diagnosing cancers early is phenomenal. Tools like this can really help [radiologists] and support them in their work and that's got to be a good thing for patients."

 Read the full press release from Cardiff University 

New Alzheimer’s Disease antibody therapy shows promising results 

Amyloid plaques are extracellular deposits that impact neuronal connections and are believed to cause Alzheimer’s Disease. Eli Lilly’s antibody – donanemab - is engineered to clear amyloid plaque in the brain, and results from clinical trials have shown optimistic results. 

Donanemab appeared to reduce build-up of amyloid plaque and resulted in clinical benefits for many trial participants, including: 

  • 47% of patients showing no decline in disease severity after one year (compared to 29% of participants on placebo) 
  • Participants had 40% less decline in ability to perform daily living activities after 18 months 
  • Participants experienced a 39% lower risk of progressing to the next stage of disease, compared to placebo 

Eli Lilly plans to apply for approval to sell donanemab in the UK within the next six months. NICE is currently appraising the drug for treating mild cognitive impairment, or mild dementia, caused by Alzheimer's Disease. Depending on the outcome of NICE’s review, the very earliest donanemab might be available on the NHS is 2025. 

Read the full press release from Eli Lilly 

Welsh Government announce £5 million funding for more Allied Health Professionals 

Welsh Government is investing £5 million to increase Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) in Wales to improve access to community-based care. AHPs provide care to assess, treat, diagnose, and discharge patients, and professions include radiographers, paramedics, physiotherapists, dieticians, and occupational therapists. 

Funding was available from April 2023. By investing in AHPs, this initiative aims to help people stay active and independent, reducing hospital admissions as a result, and enabling quicker hospital discharge. This allows patients to recover at home and reduces service pressures. 

Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services, said: 

“The focus of health and social care in Wales is on strengthening community-based services. We want people to live at home, as independently as possible. Currently, not enough people can access the expertise of AHPs to maximise their health and improve their recovery. This is why I am announcing £5m to improve access to these skilled professionals and services to provide alternatives to hospital admission and reduce reliance on long-term social care.” 

Read the full press release from Welsh Government 

Life Science Companies win big at Wales STEM Awards 2023  

There were 13 awards up for grabs at this year's Wales STEM Awards. Life Science companies and individuals shone within the competition and swept up four of the awards, including: 

Innovation in STEM AwardAfon Technology 

Afon Technology are developing Glucowear, a non-invasive, continuous blood glucose monitor.  

STEM Company of the Year (under 50 employees)CanSense  

CanSense are developing a blood test for bowel cancer, reducing the need for patients to undergo invasive colonoscopies to diagnose their disease. 

STEM Sustainability Award Genesis Biosciences 

Genesis Bioscience develop a range of antimicrobial products for applications such as surface sanitisation, food industry waste treatment and wastewater treatment. 

Liz Brookes, Co-Founder of Wales STEM Awards said: 

“It’s been incredible shining a spotlight on the STEM sector in Wales. Our winners are pushing the boundaries of STEM innovation and helping address the diversity gap and skills shortage that exists” 

A huge congratulations to all of the winners and nominees! 

Find out more about the Wales STEM awards and this year’s winners 

Cardiff University and Siemens Healthineers agree strategic alliance 

This year we saw Cardiff University enter a partnership with Siemens Healthineers to develop advanced medical technologies, with a focus on imaging and in vitro diagnostics. 

This partnership centres around Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), who use magnetic resonance machines developed by Siemens to image and research neurological and psychiatric conditions such as dementia, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.  

CUBRIC houses an MRI system, a scanner specially adapted by Siemens, that’s capable of imaging the microstructure of a brain to reveal the neurological connections that underpin brain function in finer detail than conventional systems.  

Professor Ian Weeks, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences said: 

“This collaboration will transform how we use our collective expertise in imaging, clinical laboratory diagnostics and data science to develop integrated diagnostic methods for the earlier and more accurate diagnosis and treatment of disease.” 

Read more about the strategic alliance 

Existing breast cancer therapeutic repurposed as preventive drug approved for use in NHS England 

Women at increased risk of breast cancer in England could now benefit from a proven risk-reducing drug made available on the NHS, after it was licensed in a new use to help prevent the disease. 

Thanks to work by NHS England’s Medicines Repurposing Programme and pharmaceutical company Accord Healthcare, the drug Anastrozole, which is used as a breast cancer treatment, has now been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a preventive drug. The drug reduces the incidence of breast cancer in post-menopausal women at increased risk of the disease by almost 50%. 

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with more than 56,000 people diagnosed each year, and 80% of these diagnoses are in women over 50.  

There’s been no news as to whether Anastrozole will be made available to at-risk women in Wales. 

Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive Officer, said: 

“It’s fantastic that this vital risk-reducing option could help thousands of women and their families avoid the distress of a breast cancer diagnosis. Allowing more women to live healthier lives, free of breast cancer is truly remarkable.”  

Read more about the preventative drug 


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