Matchmaking must facilitate innovation for kidney patients

30 October 2019

New technologies, but also smart applications of existing innovations, can have a major impact on a kidney patient's quality of life. However, that requires a match between supply and demand. In a matchmaking meeting on 2 December, the Dutch Kidney Foundation and NWO will bring the worlds of nephrology and technology together.

‘Of course, we already see a lot of collaboration in the field of nephrology. But real innovations often arise due to contact with companies and researchers from entirely different and unexpected perspectives’, says Jasper Boomker. He is programme manager Innovation at the Dutch Kidney Foundation and one of the initiators of a matchmaking meeting on 2 December (in Dutch). ‘We are aiming at companies and researchers who often already have the technological innovations but perhaps do not think of us immediately and do not realise that they also have something to offer us. They are not aware that their product or way of thinking could possibly be highly relevant for kidney patients.

Never realised this would be marketable

He gives an example. ‘The gold standard for inserting needles into a fistula for dialysis uses ultrasonography. The idea behind that is to prevent needles being inserted in the wrong place. However, existing ultrasound equipment is not particularly practical for this purpose: the equipment is too large, has limited availability and is not handy to use. Nurses sometimes need to do acrobatics to obtain the desired result. By chance, we came into contact with a company that makes small ultrasound devices but had never realised that there was a market for these in nephrology.’

Conversations ultimately led to a start-up, which, with a grant from the Dutch Kidney Foundation, developed a small ultrasound device that can be attached to the patient's arm while inserting a needle in an artery. With a Take-Off grant from NWO it has now been launched on the market. Boomker: ‘Our idea is that soon every dialysis nurse will carry this Vasoscope, just like every doctor wears a stethoscope around the neck.’

Discovering unknown territory

It is a fantastic example of an unexpected innovation that arose between parties that would not have naturally come into contact with each other. The Dutch Kidney Foundation would like to steer this process more by bringing together researchers from a very diverse range of disciplines (from robotics to regenerative medicine and from material science to data science) into contact with each other. And also by involving companies straightaway so that innovations will quickly lead to concrete applications in practice, an ambition the Foundation shares with NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences. ‘We want to use public-private partnerships more as a vehicle for realising concrete solutions for kidney patients’, says Boomker. And there are a lot of those patients: one in ten Dutch people suffer from chronic kidney damage; the healthcare costs worldwide in relation to this disease are expected to have risen to 90 billion euros in 2023. How can we detect kidney damage earlier and treat this? How can technology help to make life with a kidney disease more bearable? How can we substitute the kidney function better? Or even cure it? ‘Answering these questions requires groundbreaking innovations for which we need all of these different parties in the entire chain’, says Boomker.

Getting to know each other

At Holst Centre on the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, the Dutch Kidney Foundation, TNO, IMEC Nederland and NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences will therefore bring nephrologists, engineers, companies, investors and researchers together to jointly discover unknown territory. Patients, medics and investors will consider where the opportunities and needs lie, which ideas are relevant, and how good ideas can be financed. But above all else, there will be plenty of time to get to know each other. The meeting will be held from 09.30 to 13.30 hours and will end with a lunch. For further information and registration, please see the website of the Dutch Kidney Foundation (in Dutch).

Source: NWO


Science area

Applied and Engineering Sciences


Dr. ir. Gerdine Stout (Programmamedewerker) Dr. ir. Gerdine Stout (Programmamedewerker) +31 (0)30 6001325