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Jul 2023 | By Nicola Bruns-Bergsteedt

UCT MEDTECH / BMERC’s EDMUND WESSELS JOINTLY WINS 2023 AFRICA PRIZE FOR ENGINEERING INNOVATION 

Ghana, 6 July 2023 – Edmund Wessels, the brilliant mind behind the ground-breaking gynaecological device FlexiGyn™, has jointly WON the highly coveted 2023 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. This prestigious recognition showcases Wessels’ exceptional contribution to the field of engineering and highlights the transformative impact of his invention on healthcare in Africa. Wessel’s takes home the esteemed £25,000 final prize. This prestigious recognition not only celebrates his’ exceptional contribution to the field of engineering but also underscores the transformative impact of his invention on healthcare in Africa. Wessels shares first place with Anatoli Kirigwajjo from Uganda. 

FlexiGyn™, developed by Wessels, is a game-changer for women and adolescent girls in remote communities across South Africa and Africa who face barriers to accessing necessary gynaecological care. This innovative device allows gynaecologists to diagnose and treat uterine-related challenges without the need for general anaesthesia, ensuring comfort and safety for patients. Its user-friendly design makes it suitable for both doctor’s offices and under-resourced clinics, addressing the gaps in medical infrastructure prevalent in many communities. 

Co-invented with his doctoral study supervisor, Professor Sudesh Sivarasu, DSI/NRF South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Biomedical Engineering & Innovation, director of the Biomedical Engineering Research Centre at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and head of UCT’s MedTech, FlexiGyn™ features a portable device equipped with a built-in camera and a small diameter flexible scope. The device’s unique user-controlled bending mechanism provides clinicians with optimal views of the uterus, allowing for accurate diagnoses and targeted treatments. 

Wessels, in collaboration with Christopher Kent Meunier, has taken the bold step of co-founding Vas MedTech with the aim of promoting entrepreneurship and job creation. This endeavour showcases Wessels’ remarkable journey from academia to the realm of business, highlighting his innovative spirit and determination to make a lasting impact. By establishing Vas MedTech (with the support of UCT Research Contracts & Innovation), Wessels and Meunier are creating opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs while fostering an environment that fosters innovation and drives economic growth. Their inspiring initiative goes beyond traditional academic boundaries, empowering individuals to transform their ideas into successful ventures and contribute to the overall development of society. 

Wessels’ visionary approach to healthcare has paved the way for collaboration between gynaecologists, obstetricians, and general practitioners, creating a network of changemakers committed to expanding access to essential screenings and healthcare services in remote areas. His passion for innovation and dedication to solving African challenges have rightfully earned him this prestigious accolade. 

The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, established in 2014, remains the largest award recognising engineering excellence in Africa. Wessels’ remarkable achievement distinguishes him among the continent’s top innovators, positioning him as a trailblazer in engineering solutions that directly address the unique needs of African communities. 

Expressing his gratitude, Wessels shared his excitement about the future opportunities that this recognition will bring. He looks forward to showcasing FlexiGyn™ and further advancing its impact on healthcare at large. 

About Edmund Wessels: 

Edmund Wessels is the visionary engineer and inventor behind the ground-breaking gynaecological device, FlexiGyn™. As a PhD student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Wessels collaborated with Professor Sudesh Sivarasu, director of UCT’s Biomedical Engineering Research Centre and head of UCT’s MedTech, to develop a solution that revolutionises gynaecological care. His dedication to improving healthcare access in remote communities and his unwavering commitment to innovation has earned him the esteemed recognition of winning the 2023 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. 

About FlexiGyn: 

FlexiGyn™ is a pioneering gynaecological device developed by Edmund Wessels, revolutionising the field of women’s healthcare. This game-changing invention allows gynaecologists to diagnose and treat uterine-related challenges without the need for general anaesthesia, ensuring a comfortable and pain-free experience for patients. Designed for use in various medical settings, FlexiGyn™ provides clinicians with unparalleled precision and accuracy in diagnostics. Its portability and user-controlled bending mechanism make it an indispensable tool in both well-equipped medical facilities and under-resourced clinics, bridging the gap in healthcare access across Africa. 

About UCT MedTech:  

UCT MedTech is a leading medical technology research and development research group based in the Biomedical Engineering Research Centre within the Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa.  The centre specialises in pioneering solutions for critical medical challenges in Africa and beyond. Its diverse team of engineers, scientists, clinicians, and entrepreneurs collaboratively create state-of-the-art medical technologies to enhance patient outcomes, lower healthcare expenses, and improve healthcare accessibility.  With a focus on translational research, UCT MedTech strives to bridge academia and innovation by developing clinically relevant and commercially viable medical devices and technologies that cater to local, national, and global populations. The centre has a strong history of successful partnerships with industry, government, and academic institutions, committed to developing sustainable solutions that positively impact people’s lives.