Gold and Bronze medals awarded at ITEX 2024 for creative innovations in healthcare and gene analysis

UTAR once again proved its excellence in research, when two teams were awarded gold and bronze medals, respectively, at the 35th International Invention, Innovation, Technology Competition & Exhibition 2024 (ITEX 2024), held from 16 to 17 May 2024 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

The gold medal team was led by Centre for Healthcare Science and Technology Chairperson Assoc Prof Ir Dr Chee Pei Song. His team members included Centre for Communication Systems and Networks Chairperson Prof Ts Dr Lim Eng Hock, and Lee Kong Chian Faculty of Engineering and Science (LKC FES) academics Dr Tan Chun Hui and Dr Low Jen Hahn. The team also received a certificate.

Dr Chee (second from right) and Dr Tan (far right) receiving the gold medal

Dr Chee expressed, “We are very honoured to win the gold medal. This recognition encourages us to continue exploring wearable electronics, particularly in developing healthcare devices that can enhance healthcare in Malaysia. We are also very grateful to UTAR for supporting and nominating our team for this competition. We have indeed received positive feedback from the public on our product, and we are happy to have this opportunity to showcase our product to a much wider audience.”

When asked about the inspiration behind the product development, Dr Chee explained, “As Malaysia gradually transitions to an ageing population, many older individuals require extensive care at home, particularly with healthcare devices to continuously monitor their physiological signals, such as temperature, heart activity, and blood pressure. Among these healthcare devices, heart activity monitoring devices are the most crucial, given that heart attacks are the leading silent killer in Malaysia. Traditional heart monitoring devices, such as Holter monitors, require multiple wire connections to connect ECG electrodes, making them inconvenient for daily use. These wires can obstruct daily activities, and the data obtained must be analysed by experienced technicians. Additionally, the hydrogel used to reduce surface resistance on wet ECG electrodes can cause skin sensitivity and its performance degrades over time.”

He continued, “Leveraging the advantages of flexible electronics, our group has developed an electronic skin that can be seamlessly adhered to the human body using medical-grade adhesive for ECG monitoring. We utilise medical-grade textiles as the dry electrode, addressing the issues associated with wet electrodes. The electronic connections are printed on a TPU film, which is stretchable and can conform to human skin. Our developed electronic skin includes a unique stretchable energy harvesting module capable of converting WiFi energy into DC voltage. This voltage powers a microcontroller designed to acquire ECG signals from the human body. We have successfully integrated ECG electrodes into the patch for continuous monitoring, with the data fed into our internally developed AI algorithm. This AI algorithm can predict Atrial Fibrillation (AF) with up to 95% accuracy, tested on both AF and normal patients. This project is funded by CREST and UTAR and is currently in the commercialisation stage by MDT Innovations Sdn Bhd. It is also aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being because it aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages by providing innovative healthcare solutions. Continuous monitoring of heart activity can significantly improve early diagnosis and management of heart diseases, ultimately reducing mortality rates associated with cardiovascular diseases.”

From left: Linah and Dr Ng displaying the bronze medal and the certificate

Meanwhile, Dr Wu Lien-Teh Centre for Research in Communicable Diseases Chairperson Dr Ng Hien Fuh led the bronze medal team, with members consisting of Linah Wetthasinghe, and M. Kandiah Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (MK FMHS) academics, Senior Prof Dr Ngeow Yun Fong and MSEF Professor of Medicine Prof Dr Lee Way Seah.

Dr Ng expressed, “We are very honoured to represent UTAR and win the bronze medal. We are grateful to UTAR for providing a conducive environment for researchers to have the opportunity to create and showcase our innovative solutions at an international level.”

He also explained, “Our research is titled ‘RSRQ (RESCUE) your RT-qPCR gene expression analysis’. The main algorithm (calculation steps) of RSRQ was developed a few years ago when I was still a postdoctoral researcher at UTAR. After my transition to become an academic staff member of MK FMHS, I noticed that the mark entry for midterm and final exams was a tedious and error-prone procedure, especially for the mark entry of objective papers. To circumvent this problem, I developed a ready-to-use spreadsheet to streamline and simplify the process of mark entry, which inspired me to adopt some of the Excel formulas in the development of RSRQ.”

Dr Ng also mentioned that the research aligns with SDG 3. He said, “RT-qPCR is a widely used method in different areas of science, including research in the medical and health sciences. Developing a data analysis tool that simplifies and streamlines the process of RT-qPCR analysis could help researchers and educators attain more scientific breakthroughs.”

ITEX 2024 aimed to attract the right target group in the science and technology industries. Investors, venture capitalists, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, distributors and the corporate sectors make their way to ITEX specifically to explore new business ventures. ITEX is the best place to unveil a new invention or product, where the industry’s keenest are present to discuss and debate research work. ITEX is also where the commercialisation of inventions/new products happens. Inventors can seek out potential investors and convince them why funding their invention can benefit society, as ITEX provides the best audience for prototype inventions or products.

Teams from UTAR

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