Painless colorectal cancer screening with robotic assistance: Innovation prize for research team

For the first time, the KUKA Innovation Award focused on healthcare and medicine. The winners of the innovation competition have now been chosen. Their goal: to save lives.

The MEDICA medical technology trade fair in Düsseldorf is very busy. Only the KUKA booth attracted a great deal of attention, with all eyes focused on the cover that Dr. Rainer Bischoff, Vice President KUKA Corporate Research is currently opening.

Dozens of spectators attended the award ceremony, the highlight of the KUKA Innovation Award. The evening before, the jury had decided which of the five final teams would receive the prize endowed with 20,000 euros. Not an easy task, says Prof. Stefano Stramigioli. “I have been a member of the jury for several years, it was never as hard as this year. The quality of the concepts was high and covered a broad spectrum.”

Robotic talents from all over the world applied with their ideas around the topic “Healthy Living”. An international jury selected the five best concepts. The final teams presented their ideas to a broad specialist audience at MEDICA 2019.

Painless colorectal cancer screening: a concept that can save lives

Finally, Rainer Bischoff takes a name from the envelope. And the winner is…Team RoboFORCE! The young researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Vanderbilt and Turin convinced the jury with their concept for robotic magnetic flexible endoscope for painless colorectal cancer screening, surveillance and intervention. “In the end, the jury opted for a concept that offers patients particularly great advantages. We see great potential in this innovative idea “, says Rainer Bischoff.

The colonoscopy is a common procedure to detect bowel cancer in its early stages. This procedure offers major advantages. Nevertheless, the current technology also has disadvantages such as the risk of perforation, pain and high costs. As an alternative, Team RoboFORCE  developed a robot platform using a magnetic capsule which navigates through the bowels thanks to magnetic coupling with an external magnet mounted on an LBR Med.

“We put a lot of effort into this project,” says team leader Prof. Pietro Valdastri. “We want to save lives with it. Colorectal cancer is a great danger, our technology can make screening more accessible and painless”.

Innovations for health: Medical robotics as a field of the future

While the winning team is still celebrating, the KUKA Innovation Award 2020 is already in full swing. Once again, the focus will be on medical robotics. Teams can apply until the beginning of January. Jury member Stefano Stramigioli encourages interested parties to send in their applications: “This is an opportunity not to be missed – it’s worth it”. An assessment shared by this year’s award winners. Their tip for all interested parties? “Don’t just pay attention to coolness, focus on the clinical needs and the potential of an idea.” A real recipe for success, as the winning team shows.

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