A heart devoted to the safety of pacemakers

14.12.2023 Researcher Emily Thompson is at the head of a several-year project that aims to simplify and render more safe pacemaker implantations. Her goal is to bring the developed application to market maturity and launch it in hospitals with a start-up. She collaborates closely to that effect with BFH.

Emily Thompson moved to Switzerland eight years ago. The American researcher wanted to complete a master’s degree in Medical Technology and was planning to return afterwards to her home country. But things turned out differently. Emily decided to study Biomedical Engineering, a joint study programme by BFH and the University of Bern. Soon after starting her studies, she had the opportunity to join the research team at BFH’s Institute for Human Centered Engineering (HuCE). Since completing her master’s degree, she has been working as a research assistant at the institute and has been involved in various research projects over the years.

Wide-ranging activities

Emily Thompson has no plans of returning to the States. Her heart is entirely devoted to a project that improves safety during the implantation of pacemaker electrodes. Three researchers and BFH employees are currently involved in the project placed under her responsibility. The system called Pace Locator makes it possible to localise and visualise the electrodes in 3D. This allows them to be positioned more precisely during the operation than with conventional procedures based on two-dimensional imaging technology. The results show fewer misplaced electrodes, which optimises patient treatment.

Thanks to the Pace Locator, pacemakers can be implanted faster and more accurately.

Emily Thompson
Emily Thompson

With the system, cardiac arrhythmias can be diagnosed before the procedure, which enables better planning and a more effective operation. ”Thanks to the Pace Locator, pacemakers can be implanted faster and more accurately,” summarises Emily Thompson.

During the course of the project, the researcher performed various tasks to improve the market maturity of the system. On the one hand, she led the development of software and controls for the system and the production of catheters. On the other hand, she has been focussing for some time already on the regulatory requirements that must be met for the new product to be authorised.

New start-up in the pipeline

Just over a year ago, Emily Thompson and some of her colleagues decided to turn the research project into a start-up. The researcher and her team needed financial support. They received initial support from SNF-Bridge, a joint funding programme of the Swiss National Science Foundation, and from Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency. At the beginning of 2023, the Pace Locator came second in the Innovation Awards organised by Ypsomed, the medical technology company. Moreover, in recent months the Venture Kick foundation has twice pledged further financial support. “Thanks to their support, we were able to further develop the system and, above all, address the issues surrounding market authorisation,” explains the project manager.

There is an open spirit at BFH that I haven’t often encountered elsewhere.

Emily Thompson
Emily Thompson

Currently, Emily Thompson is involved in presenting the Pace Locator at medical conferences and networking events in Europe and overseas. At the same time, work is underway on clinical studies to prove the effectiveness of the system. Her company will be officially launched at the end of the year, and in 2024 she and her team will be spending half of their time doing research at BFH and the other half working for their company. It is still unclear when they will depart altogether from BFH. However, Emily Thompson would like to pursue the collaboration with BFH: “Our aim is to continue cooperating with BFH on research projects and on the further development of our system in the future.”

Open mind at BFH

Emily Thompson has come to appreciate BFH in two ways. She emphasises the freedom she enjoys here as a researcher: “I have been able to work in various technical fields, tackle regulatory issues and, what’s more, lead a team. I find this very cool.” She is also grateful for the support and tips she has received from BFH in connection with all the economic and legal issues surrounding the launch of her own company and the approval of the Pace Locator: “I never feel restricted in what I do here. There is an open spirit at BFH that I haven’t often encountered elsewhere.”

Emily Thompson arbeitet in blauer Schutzkleidung in einem Labor am Pace Locator.
Emily Thompson has a wish: to continue working closely with BFH even after founding her start-up.