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A WUT idea wins the Polish edition of the James Dyson award

Photo of the members of the pd meds team leaning over the table

pd meds team. From the left: Maciej Pikuliński, Piotr Falkowski, Anna Pastor and Bazyli Leczkowski

An innovative system for pulmonary rehabilitation won the national level of the international technological competition organised by the James Dyson Foundation. The winning solution is the work of the team pd meds, comprising mainly young scientists connected with the Warsaw University of Technology.

Respiratory failure is a life-threatening condition and a symptom of many diseases. As a result of a number of infections, post-operation, cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), patients often find it difficult to catch their breath, which may lead to oxygen deficiency in tissues and even death. The pb meds team has come up with the solution which will help both the ill and doctors and rehabilitation specialists treating them.

How does it work?

Boreas contains a microcomputer which controls the difficulty of exercises, collects data and visualises how the patient should correctly perform the breathing exercises. It also has interchangeable parts, a sterile filter and an inlet pipe, so it may be used by many patients. During exercises with Boreas, the patient should produce enough pressure to open a special internal respiratory channel and then follow the natural breathing rhythm when flow limits are changed. After the session ends, the data are automatically sent to the patient’s doctor who may compare the results with the patient’s previous results. The next exercise session is generated automatically by the device.

Such a solution doesn’t only facilitate the doctor’s evaluation of the patient’s condition and their progress but is also very useful for the patient. Thanks to Boreas, exercises may also be done at home, under the supervision of a virtual trainer. To make the project even more attractive for the patient, and thereby increase their motivation and regularity of exercise, the system developers have decided to create it as a game combined with an app. The option of performing individual exercises without a respiratory physiotherapist will allow efficient rehabilitation of the patient even when faced with difficulties reaching such specialists.

Photo of the Boreas device

This is the Boreas device. Over one year and a half, the young inventors developed ten prototypes

Origin of the idea

Pd meds, an informal start-up behind Boreas, is made up of Piotr Falkowski (leader, doctoral student at the Warsaw University of Technology, expert in automation of rehabilitation), Maciej Pikuliński (doctoral student at the Warsaw University of Technology and expert in the field of control algorithms, responsible for software within the project), Bazyli Leczkowski (Warsaw University of Technology student and expert in the field of fast prototyping, responsible for hardware) and Anna Pastor (graduate of the Wrocław University of Technology and expert in the field of user-oriented design, responsible for contact with potential users).

The Boreas idea was directly connected with the coronavirus pandemic. A person close to one of the team members was facing COVID-19 consequences. At that time, the team, then at a medical trade fair, came up with an idea of developing a modern and effective device which will help people dealing with respiratory problems.

– Over 70 million people all over the world are facing various respiratory diseases – says Piotr Falkowski. – Every day they fight for normal functioning, peaceful breathing. They need a solution which will improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, access to respiratory physiotherapists is for many reasons limited and it is regular exercise that can help this group of patients.

Time for the next stage

Over one and a half year, the young inventors developed 10 Boreas prototypes – more and more modular – to verify the operation of various mechanisms for respiratory training, which together make up the core of the device. This required financial investments. The needs will be greater – costs of medical certification reach millions. And the process itself takes over a year.

The prize in the competition will surely help in project development – it is 26.5 thousand Polish złoty.

– With the whole team we are very happy that the project won the James Dyson Competition – says Piotr Falkowski. – We deeply believe that the funds collected in this way will contribute to the development of the idea and thereby to its implementation and promotion both among individual patients and in medical centres.

The pd meds team will represent Poland in the international stage of the competition. A shortlist of 20 inventions will be published on 18 October and the winners will be announced on 15 November.

The James Dyson Award encourages young engineers to use their knowledge in practice and to find ways to improve the quality of our lives thanks to technology. In Poland the competition is held for the third time. A project developed jointly by a Warsaw University of Technology student won the first edition and in the second one – the idea of WUT doctoral students did not only win the national competition but was also awarded the main prize in the international final.