Small POWIS project could make a big difference for heart disease sufferers

Posted on 30 March 2010

Chris Moriarty

It may be only the diameter of an AA battery, but the tiny heart assist pump being developed by a Swansea-based company aims to transform the lives of the millions of people across the world suffering from heart disease. 

Calon Cardio is the latest recipient of a Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarship (POWIS), which will help the company undertake the costly research and development of its Calon pump (Calon is Welsh for heart).

The new POWIS scholar, Swansea based Mechanical Engineering Graduate, Chris Moriarty, will be undertaking a Ph.D to examine how to reduce the production cost of the heart assist pump by assessing the material selection and manufacturing processes.  Whilst Calon’s device is currently manufactured from titanium - an expensive material with high manufacturing costs - Chris hopes to develop a low cost alternative based on a polymer or ceramic design.  

Commenting on his selection for the POWIS Scholarship, Chris said:

“I am delighted to be awarded this scholarship, as it’s such a fantastic opportunity to assist with the development of such an important innovation that could benefit people worldwide. Working with a pioneering start-up company with cutting edge technology is also incredibly exciting.”

Graham Foster from Calon Cardio, who is leading this research, added:

The Calon pump can be implanted into the human body to support the work of a heart which has been damaged by disease and is starting to fail.  This extra support provides enough help to keep the circulation flowing and prevent the heart from failing completely, and in some cases allows the heart to recover fully.  I find the idea of being able to help improve medical treatment in ways like this incredibly exciting and am delighted that we have partnered with POWIS to collaborate on the Calon project.”

As part of the POWIS programme, companies get to benefit from close links with both local and international universities. The project will be supervised by academics at the Institute of Life Science at Swansea University, building on links between academics and the growing biosciences cluster in the area.  As Professor Gareth Morgan, Head of the School of Medicine at Swansea University, said:

“Calon Cardio Technology was one of the very first companies to move into the Institute of Life Science - and we’ve been with them every step of the way. Calon’s device is a great example of what can be achieved when medicine meets engineering and we’re delighted to welcome Chris Moriarty to the ILS family.’   

The Calon Cardio team has taken full advantage of a recent visit by academics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts, USA. Working collaboratively, both organisations will examine issues surrounding biocompatibility as a consequence of implanting medical devices into the human body. The company will also be taking advantage of the POWIS programme unique membership of the Industrial Liaison Programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which gives companies access to the expertise and knowledge at one of the World’s leading universities.

Will Krawszik, the POWIS innovation fellow managing the project, said:

“The University of Wales Global Academy is delighted to be working with Calon Cardio on this ground-breaking research. We hope our support, especially in accessing global academic expertise, can help the company to solve quickly its choice of manufacturing materials, thereby speeding up the impact the Calon pump could have on people suffering from heart disease.”

POWIS is an innovative £11.4 million initiative, managed by the University of Wales Global Academy programme, which brings the private sector in Wales together with higher education and  bright young graduates from anywhere in the world.

Launched formally last year by HRH The Prince of Wales, each scholarship is worth £100,000. The scheme will provide 100 world-class graduates to Welsh businesses between 2009 and 2014, supporting them through a programme that is amongst the best financially supported PhD packages in the world. POWIS is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the European Union’s Convergence programme administered by the Welsh Assembly Government, private sector investment and the University of Wales’ own funds. The University is actively seeking new companies and research projects all year round.


Notes to Editors:

POWIS is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the European Union’s Convergence programme administered by the Welsh Assembly Government, private sector investment and the University of Wales’s own funds.

To find out more about the Calon project please contact:  Kevin Fernquest on 01792 51372 or email: or visit:

For press and media information, please contact: Joanna Davies, Head of Communications, University of Wales: 02920 376999 Press phone: 07534 228754

For information regarding the Global Academy, please contact Richie Turner, Deputy Director of External Affairs: Tel: 02920 376974  or visit:


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