Biomedical engineers from the Medical Devices Lab at the University of Cape Town (UCT) have developed an affordable, reloadable adrenaline auto-injector called the ZibiPen.

The injector will provide vials of adrenaline for a fraction of the current cost of adrenaline auto-injectors to people with life-threatening allergies.

According to Head of the Division of Asthma and Allergy at UCT, Professor Mike Levin, adrenaline auto-injectors on the market can be expensive, expire within 18 months and can only be used once.

Current devices in the market are unintuitive and are based on the size of an average male, which could pose problems for children, women and the obese.

The ZibiPen can be customised for any patient with needle length and dose calculated by clinicians and set by pharmacists.

One of the main challenges was developing a device that could exert a force of around 200 newtons, about 20 kilograms, in a small device. But the team says they’ve managed to develop an effective patent pending spring-based system configuration.

“Here you have a technology which can be very easily made accessible to the middle- and low-income group as well. But it is not made so because of business reasons, and also because the [current] technology doesn’t support it,” said Associate Prof and Head of the Medical Devices Lab, Sudesh  Sivarasu.

The ZibiPen was recently recognised in the Emerging Medical Innovation Competition at the Design of Medical Devices Conference, where it placed second and was awarded a full technical and market evaluation by the Medical Industry Leadership Institute (MILI), valued at R180,000.

Research Contracts and Innovation at UCT partnered with the innovation team at a very early stage and has facilitated the intellectual property protection and commercialisation of the technology.

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