Helping newborns survive in any environment
How can you get life saving incubators to our youngest and most vulnerable patients wherever they are in the world? The answer was developed by mOm Incubators CEO and co-founder, James Roberts when he was a third year design student.
Knowing his mum was kept alive in an incubator in the 1960s, he was shocked to learn that in 2014 many babies around the world still can’t access incubators. His research revealed that one million premature babies die each year, and three quarters of those could be prevented if new-borns had access to consistent warmth.
Using £625,190 of Innovate UK funding among other grants and investments, he has created an incubator that is light, cost effective and incredibly easy to use. Its technology creates a thermo-regulated environment like that of a conventional incubator. It only weighs 20kg, can run off rechargeable batteries, and compacts to half its size. This portability means it can be quickly deployed to areas that incubators have not traditionally been used in, or those that are dangerous or under resourced, so that newborns can access the care they need to survive. James explains, “Ultimately this is about trying to help millions of kids around the world by giving them a higher-tech solution that they need and deserve.”
His early-stage product won the James Dyson Design Award which helped build interest and momentum. But it was his first Innovate UK grant that allowed James to start to turn his prototype into a product that has attracted substantial investment, as well as secure specialist help to navigate the complexities of developing a medical device for a high-risk patient group. Innovate UK has remained a valuable contact that James has continued to turn to as the company evolves.
But James’s biggest challenge has been how to safely test the incubator on real babies and prove it delivers the same high standards of care as traditional, static incubators. That’s when James used a £99,418 grant from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund to run a series of clinical trials at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey. Peter Reynolds, Consultant Neonatologist at St Peter’s said, “I am very grateful to the parents who agreed to take part. Keeping babies warm is a fundamental part of good neonatal care and we are pleased to be leading this evaluation of the new mOm incubator.” New-born Robin was the first baby to use the mOm Essential Incubator. Her mum, Amy, reflects, “From our experience, seeing how well Robin did in the trial, we could see how it could benefit other premature babies – ultimately keeping them safe, warm and alive.”
Since the trials, mOm Incubators has received its CE mark and estimates that they have helped 2,000 babies worldwide. Their incubators are being used by more than five NHS hospitals in a series of pilots to reduce the need for short-term admission to Special Care and in the future, bring neonates out of NICU faster. Overseas, more than 70 incubators have been successfully deployed across Ukraine, and the company has started supplying to a hospital in Kenya. In the last year, mOm Incubators has doubled in size to 16 people and secured £7 million in grants and investment to date. James reflects, “This is just the beginning. We’ve developed a first-in-a-generation device from sketch to product. Now we want to get it into as many healthcare settings as possible while developing our product roadmap.”