University of Dundee University of Dundee
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12 March 2013

'Sonopill' project launched with £5million grant from EPSRC

A project to develop a capsule carrying tiny ultrasound technology, which can be swallowed by patients and used to diagnose gastrointestinal problems, has been awarded a £5million grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The University of Dundee-led project aims to develop a capsule that can be easily swallowed and pass through the gastrointestinal tract, relaying images which clinicians can use to diagnose any problems.

"The principal current method of examining problems within the gastrointestinal tract is endoscopy, which is very uncomfortable and requires a high-level of clinical skill," said Professor Sandy Cochran, of the Institute for Medical Science and Technology at the University of Dundee.

"Pill-based cameras' are a developing area of medical technology which have already benefitted more than one million patients. What we want to do is develop that technology further to include ultrasound, for the first time seeing beyond the surface of the gastrointestinal tract into the tissue itself. This will bring significant diagnostic benefits for patients. We also want to explore treatment with such pills."

The project includes collaborators at Heriot Watt University and the University of Glasgow, and builds on Scotland's world-leading research capabilities in medical ultrasound. It is also linked strongly with the NHS and with industry partners.

The grant is being announced as part of a £47million investment in leading engineering research projects. The UK's Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, is making the announcement at the first Global Grand Challenges Summit in London.

The money is supporting new innovative engineering projects and an international partnership between the UK and US, bringing leading engineers and scientists together to address some of the major engineering challenges facing the world.

The Global Grand Challenges Summit (GGC) has been organised by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) and is proudly supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and other partners.

Four large grants to UK universities, totalling £20 million, will go to projects that match the Summit's themes of Resilience, Health, and Technology & Growth. They will develop new diagnostic tools and therapies in health, explore the use of hexagonal structures in technology, and improve urban infrastructure planning and modelling.

Mr Willetts said, "Over the last two centuries engineering innovations have transformed lives, but we still face global challenges like tackling climate change, improving healthcare and meeting basic needs, like access to clean water. This significant investment recognises the vital role that the UK research base can have in providing solutions to these challenges."

EPSRC's Chief Executive, Professor David Delpy said, "The issues being explored at the Global Grand Challenges Summit highlight how important it is for the UK to fund engineering research in these areas and work with colleagues worldwide to develop both the people and projects to meet the demands of the twenty first century."

For media enquiries contact the EPSRC Press Office, tel: 01793 444 404, e-mail:

Notes to Editors:

  1. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

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