The government has announced the twelve projects awarded a share of £5 million to reduce rates of fatal drug overdoses, including Vivisco Smart Revive Beacon for Opiate Overdose in partnership with KSS AHSN, Forward Trust, Kent County Council and Southeast Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

As part of the Reducing Drug Deaths Innovation Challenge, which aims to reduce drug-related deaths across the UK, the Office for Life Sciences is investing in 12 promising projects to develop technologies aimed at improving detection, response or intervention in potential drug-related deaths.

It supports the addiction mission, one of the government’s healthcare missions targeting the biggest healthcare challenges, including through funding innovative research into improved treatments and life-saving technologies to accelerate their development and rollout.

This challenge is being run by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office, which has invested £500,000 of the funding, in partnership with the Office for Life Sciences, which has invested the remaining £4.5 million of the funding. NHS Fife will be leading on the programme management for this innovation challenge.

Vivisco, KSS AHSN, Forward Trust, Kent County Council and Southeast Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust have jointly been awarded £100k to fund a feasibility project for the Vivisco Smart Revive Beacon for Opiate Overdose. The organisations will work together to co-design and prototype an automatic alert system triggered when a naloxone (a lifesaving medication, which helps to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in minutes) package is opened, contacting emergency services with GPS location and notification of naloxone usage.

Christopher Russell, CTO at Vivisco, said: “Vivisco is leading the project to develop a lifesaving technology to ensure overdose victims receive their 999-response as soon as possible. Reacting to a delivery of naloxone, the geolocation of the overdose is sent to the right people; a task currently not always happening. The technology’s design is informed by the project team who are engaging with naloxone users to ensure all concerns are addressed.”

On engaging with KSS AHSN, Christopher added, “the support from the ASHN has been invaluable in forming the right team to take the project forward. Early engagement with enthusiastic ASHN-identified collaborators all within the same geography ensured a strong application was formed. Of the latter, the ASHN provided insight and resources for writing the successful bid.”

KSS AHSN will be supporting the project through project management, market research and opportunity identification. Julian O’Kelly, Innovation Manager at KSS AHSN, said: ‘We are really pleased to have supported this project all the way from writing the bid for funding through to our active involvement in project management, research and guidance. It’s a perfect example of how our team’s diverse skillset can support the often challenging journey of bringing a healthcare intervention to market. In this case, we are helping to accelerate the development of a potentially lifesaving technology.’

Hollie Walker, Research and Evaluation Officer at Forward Trust, said: “Services need innovation to help fight preventable drug-deaths, but it is vital that any new technologies are developed, trusted, and ultimately used by people who use drugs. As part of this project, I have trained and am working closely with a person with lived experience of opioid use, to engage with individuals who use opioids, those in recovery, affected family members and support staff. Through focus groups and interviews we will aim to improve understanding of processes around Naloxone use and identify opportunities for technology to improve emergency response to overdose situations. The Forward Trust are proud to work on a project with life-saving potential and within a project team with an appreciation for the value end-user engagement at all stages.”

Three other AHSN projects also received funding:

  • Ultra-portable fast-dispersal buccal naloxone for constant carriage: testing feasibility and acceptability – King’s College London in partnership with Catalent, Accord Health, Scottish Drug Forum, Scottish Families affected by Alcohol and Drugs (SFAD), DrugFAM and South London Academic Health Science Network (AHSN).
  • In Time Naloxone – DroneMatLab Limited (King’s College London spinout) in partnership with the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths, HeroTech8, Midlands Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, University of Southampton and Wessex Academic Health Science Network.
  • Co-Evaluation Study of Overdose Detection and Response Wristband Technology – Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (MPFT) in partnership with Brave, Keele University, Two Saints Housing Association and the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network.

Find out more about these projects and the challenge here.