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EHRA seeks to facilitate innovation

To achieve its goal of enabling innovation, the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) has set-up the EHRA Innovation Forum. Congress News talks to EHRA Innovation Committee Chair Professor Frits Prinzen (Department of Physiology, Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands) about the forum, its achievements so far, and the innovations that have the potential to revolutionise clinical practice.

Arrhythmias


In February last year, the forum met for the first time; the key priority, Prof. Prinzen commented, was to determine what the opportunities and roadblocks were to innovation.

He said: “EHRA wants to facilitate innovation. But, you cannot do that unless you first create an inventory of what the problems are and what the opportunities are for innovation. Therefore, the purpose of the February meeting was to make such an inventory in a meeting with a few dozen stakeholders.” One potential roadblock, the forum discovered, was the requirements of regulatory agencies. “What we discovered at this meeting was that there needs to be some form of policy from EHRA about how such organisations should be approached and to review whether their requirements, for whatever reason, may be too conservative in some aspects,” Prof. Prinzen commented, adding: “During that meeting we also identified new opportunities to accelerate innovation, such as novel genetic techniques, computer modelling and Big Data.”

In its second meeting, the forum was more focused on bringing representatives of these promising technologies together and see how they could join forces (if possible in the form of a research grant application). Prof. Prinzen said: “One of the challenges with innovation is that, for example, people who have an innovative idea for studying genetics may be different from those who have an innovative approach for studying large populations etc. Our aim is to make these people come together to increase the innovative power.”

According to Prof. Prinzen, trying to identify the electrophysiological innovation that, at the moment, has the most potential is an “impossible” task. He observed that to state what the greatest innovation is he would have to have heard of it, commenting: “There are probably good innovations out there that I do not know about. Some innovations you hear about within the first year of their development; others you hear about much later.”

One innovation that he has seen and that he thinks is interesting is an implantable “string” subcutaneous defibrillator.

“This is like a second-generation subcutaneous defibrillator. The device is basically just a wire, with the battery as part of the wire. It is still in the start-up phase, but I really like the concept,” Prof. Prinzen stated. However, he acknowledged that a good concept does not necessarily lead to a device being used in clinical practice—“I am old enough to have learnt that something that looks great may run into problems and then disappear. Not all of the innovative devices that you come across will make it. But, I like these challenging approaches and it is good to try.”

In terms of future innovations, Prof. Prinzen would like to see smaller batteries with cardiac implantable electronic devices because, at present, the size of the battery is a limiting factor in making devices themselves smaller. Furthermore, he believes that one of the most interesting ideas at the moment is the concept of using the motion of heart to power a pacemaker. “The heart always moves; if you could connect something to the heart that would harness energy when the heart moved, you would only need a tiny battery on the device,” Prof Prinzen said.

Yesterday, Prof. Prinzen and Professor Michael Eldar (Heart Institute, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel) chaired a session—“Innovations for better patient care: reports from the EHRA Innovation Forum”—that outlined some of the key innovations that have been discussed in the forum. The session was one of five that comprised the Innovation Track of EHRA EUROPACE - CARDIOSTIM 2017, with each session looking at a different aspect of innovation. Another such session was the Finals of EHRA inventors award and CARDIOSTIM innovators award, which saw the winner receive €3,000 and the runner-up receive €2,000. The money, Prof. Prinzen commented, will either be used to help further develop the innovation or to help the inventor go on a course “to become a better inventor”.  

Prof. Prinzen thinks that anyone (with help) can turn an idea into a practical device, saying: “I am a research scientist and it took me a long time to realise that I could apply my knowledge in a practical way. Also, busy electrophysiologists with demanding clinics can get ideas from the problems they come across on a daily basis. They can work on that idea with a company to develop a solution for the problems they encounter.”

Innovations for better patient care: reports from the EHRA Innovation Forum occlusion

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