A device that provides foetal and maternal heart rate monitoring that is non-invasive and more accurate than conventional methods, has been brought to market by Nemo Healthcare, after more than ten years’ research using advanced signal processing. The start-up says its innovation supports healthcare professionals with the information they need for safer births and healthier children.
The Nemo Foetal Monitoring System (NFMS) evolved from the work of two scientists based at the TU/e, who used advanced signal processing techniques to improve on existing heart-rate monitoring technologies, which tend to be either unreliable or too invasive.
Rik Vullings, Chief Scientific Officer at Nemo Healthcare, and also Assistant Professor in the Signal Processing Systems group at the TU/e, describes the new monitoring system as an exterior technique – it is a wearable device with an adhesive gel that sticks to the abdomen of the pregnant woman. “The system collects signals from muscles, e.g. from the uterus, the foetal heart and the maternal heart; from this information, it extracts the foetal heart rate in a way that we have proven scientifically is more accurate than the current, standard technique”.
The NFMS has received CE regulatory approval and is now being marketed. “We have a commercial team working on it, and I have full confidence that sales will come,” he says.
Nemo Healthcare has private funding, as well as benefiting from a €4 million grant from the EU Horizon 2020 Fund, which Vullings said provided a welcome boost. “We already had private investors, and then received a European grant. The grant came as a very welcome surprise; without it, we would have done well, but it helped us to speed up progress”.
The company has come a long way since its early research days in a room at the TU/e, which it outgrew. “When our team grew too big for that room we had to look for another location and we are now based in the Maxima Medical Centre, in Veldhoven. The whole company started from research that was a joint effort between TU/e and Maxima Medical Centre, so we never really left the Centre”.
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Vullings sees broader application for the NFMS, and the team is intent on continuing with its research. “The device as it now is, I see being placed in delivery rooms where it can be used to monitor the health status of child and mother during delivery. It can also be applied earlier in pregnancy. Our development is not stopping here, though. We are working to extract more information that can help diagnose in a better way the condition of the foetus. In future, I hope that more applications can be developed from this technology”.
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