Innovative Projects at HUG

Each year, the Innovation Day sees the award of a prize and two trophies. These awards highlight particularly innovative projects developed within HUG. Here is a retrospective of the winning projects in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Innovation Prize 2014: saving young mothers from death after childbirth

Highly committed to humanitarian projects, Dr. Oliver Hartley of the Department of Pathology and Immunology of the Faculty of Medicine of Geneva and Professor Robin Offord of the same faculty are also both actively involved in the Mintaka Foundation. With this foundation, they have developed a new device to stop uncontrolled bleeding after childbirth, which kills nearly 140,000 women per year, 99% of which are in developing countries. The administration of oxytocin by injection was, up to now, the best treatment to avoid such bleeding, but this substance has poor resistance to heat and requires qualified medical care. Access to this care for women in remote areas is limited. The innovation of this project lies in the production of oxytocin in a dry, heat-resistant form administered through an inhaler. Easy administration allows good preservation of the product and removes the technical constraints.

The 2014 trophies

  • Soft tissue regeneration in situ for reconstructive and aesthetic purposes
    The HUG Plastic, Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgery Division, in collaboration with EPFL and the startup PB&B, have together developed a unique technology for the regeneration of fat tissue. The innovation consists of the use of biodegradable microspheres, injected into the soft tissue, allowing, due to the biological factors they contain, the stimulation of the development of fat cells in situ. What is coming next? Grafting of tissues obtained from certain parts of the body without introducing any foreign bodies (e.g. breast reconstruction, facial remodeling for a patient with HIV, etc.)
    The first tests on animals began at HUG two months ago, under the direction of Dr. Ali Modarressi of the HUG Plastic, Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgery Division, with encouraging results. The first clinical tests on patients are expected by mid-2016.
  • The Geneva “micro-cocktail” approach: a step towards personalized medication
    To treat a specific disease, the traditional approach is to administer different patients with the same drug at the same dose. But not all patients respond in the same way; what is beneficial for some can be ineffective or toxic for others. Cytochrome P450 enzymes (responsible for the biological transformation of drugs) are largely responsible for this difference in response to treatment. By designing a capsule to simultaneously test the various main metabolic pathways, we can determine the actual activity of these enzymes and offer the patient a more tailored treatment. Another advantage is that the test can be performed using a single drop of blood directly from the fingertip, providing more comfort and safety for the patient.
    The ambition of this project, which is a collaboration between Clinical Pharmacology and the Western Switzerland University Center of Legal Medicine, is to market a complete solution (including the capsule, the micro-sample kit, analysis and pharmacological interpretation) for assessing in vivo the activity of cytochrome P450 enzymes.
  • A dynamic device to reduce the anxiety of having to wait
    Other innovative projects presented this year include InfoKids, which won the Prix Coup de Coeur funded by the Artères Foundation. Presented by Dr. Johan Siebert and designed by the Pediatric Emergency Room and the Medical Information Sciences Division, a dynamic screen displays, in a fun way with a little car, the child's position in the queue, in relation to the degree of urgency. The child therefore sees his little car advance to the box where the doctor welcomes him/her when his/her turn comes. Furthermore, an intelligent reminder system via text message allows parents with young children with illnesses that are not too serious to momentarily leave the emergency room without losing their places and to come back a short time before it is their turn. An intuitive way to keep the patient and the people with him/her informed and to moderate the inevitable impatience before any emergency care.


Innovation prize 2013 for a revolutionary and beneficial test lung

It is called POUTAC: "Test Lung for Cardiac Arrest”, and it won the Innovation Award in 2013. Designed by specialists in resuscitation and anesthesiology at HUG, including Dr. Jean-Christophe Richard, POUTAC is a type of dummy that can accurately simulate the respiratory system and heart of a human being. It is intended to allow both professionals and the general public to better understand why, in cases of cardiac arrest, it is essential not only to practice a continuous massage, but also to ensure sufficient ventilation for the body to continue to be oxygenated. This device will eventually be used to train doctors and rescuers; a tailored version is also planned to teach the general public about life-saving procedures. Extremely advanced in its operation, this test lung will also help research into improving control of pulmonary ventilation, which may lead to new medical recommendations in this area.

Winning the 10,000 Swiss franc Innovation Award, the pioneers of the POUTAC project will be able to create the first prototypes, an essential step before presenting it to future business partners. Knowing that the mortality rate for cardiorespiratory arrest is 90% helps us to understand just how much is at stake with such an innovation.

The 2013 trophies

  • An electronic device for better hand hygiene
    Highly committed to the fight against hospital-acquired infections, where it has distinguished itself as a pioneer of hand hygiene in hospitals, HUG is ready to go a step further, through the development of the Mnemogest device. It involves enabling care providers to have more control over how they disinfect their hands. Amount of product used and effectiveness of actions performed: this device will measure data accurately, thanks to an ingenious system allowing an electronic bracelet and alcohol-based solution bottle cap to communicate with each other. Dr. Yves Martin and the specialists of the Infection Prevention and Control Division eventually want to offer individual ergonomic and comfortable equipment that care providers will be happy to use. Half of hospital-acquired infections are linked to poor hygiene. Mnemogest could represent a significant advance in this field in the future.
  • The wheelchair of the future: it stores and releases energy
    For wheelchair users, the effort required to move is considerable, to the point that the muscles involved in these repeated movements eventually suffer, leading to painful and disabling musculoskeletal problems. However, it is essential to continue to engage in physical activity to keep up fitness levels, and the use of a manual wheelchair should be favored over an electric one as much as possible. To improve the lives of people in wheelchairs, Stéphane Armand and his colleagues at the HUG Kinesiology Laboratory have worked extensively on a mechanical device with a powerful spring that stores energy and releases it, based slightly on the principle of those small wind-up cars from childhood. This system will be adaptable to any manual wheelchair - all that is required is to change wheels. The patent has just been filed and a first prototype has been developed with funding from Innogap.


Innovation Award 2012 for a promising treatment in ophthalmology

The Innovation Award 2012 was awarded to Prof. Fahrad Hafezi and his C-Eye-Tip© project. The financial prize of CHF 10,000 is in addition to two awards previously won by thisnew therapeutic process in ophthalmology: the Inno Gap prize at the University of Geneva (30,000 Swiss francs) and the Venture Kick prize (CHF 10,000 and a chance to win the following phases).

UV and vitamin B2: these are the two key elements that can treat keratoconus, a rare disease of the cornea, thanks to the surgical process for cross-linking. Prof. Farhad Hafezi, Head of the Ophthalmology Division, was part of the team of inventors of this technology. For four years, he worked on developing a treatment fro serious corneal infections. The treatments currently available have limitations: to be effective, it is essential to know the precise origin - virus, bacterial, fungal, parasitic - but it is often difficult to determine the type of infection. Cross-linking may complement treatment of these infections, by intervening as soon as possible, regardless of the cause. A miniaturized medical device - the C-Eye-Tip© - is currently under development. It will expand this type of intervention, bringing new hope to many patients whose vision is impaired and threatened. HUG provides the largest consultation in Switzerland for keratoconus; each year it treats between 100 and 150 cases of corneal infections, including 5 to 10 severe cases. The cost of prototype development and the clinical study amounts to half a million francs. The project is currently in the running for four other awards.

2012 trophies

  • A device for increasing injection accuracy
    Patient safety, comfort for the nursing staff: these are the strengths of the very innovative device designed within the Nuclear Medicine Division at the instigation of Dr. Jean-Pierre Willi. Attached to a syringe, it can accurately determine the dose to be injected. It has been tested with epileptic patients for whom injection of a radioactive product is necessary prior to imaging. These injections must be performed when a fit occurs, and the patient's agitation makes dosage accuracy difficult, especially as the amount of product to manage changes during the day due to the decrease in its radioactive properties. Simple yet extremely useful, this device is designed not only to facilitate care in divisions specialized in epilepsy but it can also be adapted to many other situations, particularly ER, resuscitation or in any situations where it is necessary to administer small doses of potentially hazardous product. This innovation has already demonstrated its suitability and the patent is pending.
  • Human neural tissue in vitro to test the drugs of tomorrow
    Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis: these are the best known among the diseases caused by chronic inflammation of neurons. The challenge for specialists consists of better understanding the origins and the evolutionary processes of these diseases, but also allowing tests of new drugs. To contribute to this, the development of "human neural tissue in vitro" from stem cells by an HUG team is a significant step which will bring added value to drug efficacy testing compared to animal experimentation only. The next step is to include the neuroinflammation cells (microglia). The Department of Medical Genetics and Laboratories at HUG is working on this, in partnership with the University of Geneva. This project, led by Mathurin Baquié within the team of Prof. Karl-Heinz Krause, should lead to close collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry by providing a platform for validating tests. A start-up has already been created for this purpose.


Innovation Award 2011 to a revolutionary implant

It is called AKAN® (Above Knee Amputation Nail) and was developed by Alain Lacraz, physiotherapist at the Orthopedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Trauma Care Division. This total implant will allow a very significant improvement in the comfort and quality of life for patients who have undergone transfemoral amputation. Following such an amputation, the limb cannot provide support due to the weak bone surface; it is performed directly on the pelvis. The AKAN® restores orthogonal support on the femur, as in a healthy person. This is an implanted device comprising a shaft positioned in the medullary canal and a base which provides an enlarged bearing surface on the distal end of the femur. This implant promotes the wearing of a less restrictive prosthesis restoring a sensation of normal support.

This project won over the jury with its totally innovative nature and its potential for rapid development. A prototype already exists and the finished product will soon be on the market; in fact, compatibility tests are underway and a company has supported its manufacture. In addition, this implant is for a very large potential customer base. Amputation surgery is the most practiced surgery in the world. Thanks to the Innovation Award with a prize of 10,000 Swiss francs, the winner receives specialized coaching in collaboration contracts, while the amount received will fund a marketing plan to inform orthopedic surgeon, a practice highly regulated by protocol with respect to amputations.

The 2011 trophies

  • New therapeutic vaccine
    Trophies were the reward for two other projects acclaimed by the Jury. One of these, a new therapeutic vaccine (a novel cell-penetrating peptide as a vector for therapeutic cancer vaccines) which may improve cancer treatment by educating the immune system to specifically recognize and destroy tumor cells. Vaccines of this type developed so far have only led to partially satisfactory results. The new technology developed by Dr. Madiha Derouazi and her team allows vaccination of large groups of patients; these vaccines stimulate more cells of the immune system - helper and killer cells - thus promoting the anti-tumor action in the long term.
  • Imaging in the operating theater
    Medical imaging has changed the way of working in operating theaters. A project called “Handling medical imaging using gestures in the operating theater" (Dr. Victor Dubois-Ferriere et al.) allows a surgeon to consult and use the images of the patient at any time during the surgery by simple gestures without leaving the operating area. The application KiOP developed for this purpose uses a motion recognition camera. This project places a technology in the operating room that is already widely used in the recreational field.


Innovation award 2010 to a project involving an interface between the human brain and machine

Two neuroscience specialists,  Dr. Rolando Grave de Peralta and Dre. Sara Gonzalez Andino, created an interface between the human brain and a machine, allowing the brain to transmit information to a computer via visual stimulation. With a remote blink of the eye, it becomes possible to control the movement of a machine (for example, turning a television on or off, controlling a wheelchair, activating a call signal when required, etc.).

The initial results are promising. Researchers are working to improve the interface to make it easy to transport, with the aim of adding other sensory modalities to the visual one already used, to allow control by voice or touch.

2010 trophies

  • Thwarting counterfeit medication
    An easy-to-use analysis machine, economical in terms of reagents, environmentally friendly and low cost, provides an effective response to the scourge of the counterfeiting of medication in developing countries, which can result in death. The quality of all medication used in developing countries can thus be tested according to international standards. Counterfeit substances, i.e. not containing active ingredients, under-dosed or indeed past expiry, are then removed before distribution to the population.
  • Monitoring pneumococci
    The development of a pneumococcal classification method to monitor their development in children. The existing vaccine is not effective for all forms of pneumonia and meningitis, so this classification should help to improve monitoring and treatment options.