Digi-what? - Two questions to Prof. Patrick Pladys - the scientific coordinator of the project and chief of clinic in Pediatrics at the Rennes University Hospital - and Prof. Guy Carrault, co-director of the Image and Signal processing laboratory at the Rennes 1 University.
Could you briefly explain what is Digi-NewB?
Prof. Pladys: The project is based on the fact that more than 300 000 babies are born prematurely each year in Europe. Premature newborns are exposed to a higher risk of infection or sepsis than other groups (15-25% of premature newborns). Medical teams also lack information on how the baby 'matures', i.e. continues to grow in the outside environment.
The main goal of our project is to improve care for the newborns, i.e. reduce mortality and morbidity rates, by helping medical teams to take the right decisions at the right time. This will be done by developing an innovative monitoring system called 'Decision-Support System (DSS) that will be based on a large amount of clinical and signal data.
Prof. Carrault: Indeed, the monitoring system will acquire many different physiological variables (cardiac and respiratory rate, etc.) only by looking at the baby (we call it 'non-invasive'). To help us, we will also analyse sound (babies' sounds, cries) and videos (movement definition, sleep). All these variables and parameters will come together and help us build composite indices that will appear on a specific interface for doctors, nurses, etc. Alerts will be given and we expect decisions taken earlier than what is done at the moment.
Who are your partners and how will you concretely implement the project?
Prof. Pladys: Digi-NewB builds on a successful cooperation between the western network of University Hospitals (GCS HUGO, project coordinator), especially in the field of paediatrics (HUGOPEREN) and its active member the Rennes University Hospital, and the Rennes 1 University (Image and Signal Processing Laboratory) with whom we have a long-standing cooperation. During the proposal preparation phase and project launch, we benefited from a strong support from local stakeholders such as the Université de Bretagne Loire, ID2 Santé, SATT Ouest Valorisation, etc. They helped us also develop contacts with some of our foreign partners from Ireland, Portugal and Finland.
Prof. Carrault: Concretely, the Technology University of Tampere in Finland, will build the DSS; INESC TEC our portuguese partner will bring its knowledge on analysis of foetal heart rate, while the University of Galway in Ireland will ensure a user-centered design approach. Two SMEs (Voxygen Health, France and Syncrophi, Ireland) will play a key role in the project as they will build the data acquisition system and interfaces.
Prof. Pladys: One of the key activities of the project is also the clinical study, i.e. data acquisition from newborns. It will be led by the Rennes University Hospital and deployed in five other University Hospitals in the west of France: Angers, Nantes, Tours, Poitiers, and Brest. This way, we expect to benefit from a database of more than 700 newborns to build our final system by 2020.
Digi-NewB is a project funded by the EU programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020. Started on 1 March 2016, the project gathers 7 partners from 4 countries (France, Ireland, Finland, Portugal) and will last for 4 years. It is led by the Western Network of University Hospitals in France (GCS HUGO), and implemented by several universities (Rennes 1, Galway, INESC TEC, TUT Finland) and SMEs (Syncrophi, Voxygen Health).
The clinical study is implemented in six University hospitals neonatology services, gathered into the western pediatric research network HUGOPEREN (Rennes, Angers, Nantes, Brest, Poitiers, et Tours). Over 700 newborn babies are currently being monitored.