Humanitarian award
Dr Gerard Cummins pictured with the award alongside Carla Piñeyro Sublett, Chief Marketing Officer at National Instruments (left) and Shelley Gretlein, Vice President of Global Marketing at National Instruments

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University have won an international award for societal impact after helping create a swallowable electronic pill capable of detecting gut disease at an earlier stage.

The Sonopill programme involves four university partners in the UK, namely; Glasgow, Dundee and Leeds as well as Professor Marc Desmulliez and Dr Gerard Cummins from Heriot-Watt. The multidisciplinary team of researchers ranging from electrical and mechanical engineers to life scientists and clinical fellows were recently recognised with a 2019 National Instruments Global Engineering Impact Award.

At a ceremony held in Austin, Texas, the most innovative and impactful engineering projects from around the world were celebrated.  Dr Gerard Cummins collected the humanitarian award on behalf of the Sonopill programme.

Professor Marc Desmulliez, who led the Heriot-Watt group working on this technology, said: “This award is a testament to the hard work and teamwork of researchers in Glasgow, Heriot Watt, Dundee and Leeds in realising this incredible device and its immense potential, which we intend to bring closer to clinical trials.”

Led by Professor Sandy Cochran of the University of Glasgow, the Sonopil programme was chosen due to the innovative and humanitarian potential of the research. The programme developed a swallowable, electronic pill to detect diseases such as colorectal cancer using ultrasound, which will allow imaging into the gut wall. This research will enable earlier and less invasive detection than current clinical methods.