Dry powder micro inhaler – Industrial Design MA; Mark Fisher


According to figures from asthma charity Asthma UK, 1 in 11 adults and 1 in 12 children are currently receiving treatment for asthma in the UK. Asthma is a relatively common, yet potentially fatal long-term condition, leading to an emergency hospital admission every 7 minutes in the UK. Worryingly however, 75% of these admissions are preventable.

Funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, an Industrial Design MA at Hallam focused on reducing the number of potentially preventable, asthma related emergency hospital admissions. The catalyst for development was the voice of the individual and our student was fortunate enough to work with a range of design partners living with asthma as well as a team of medical professionals from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. These first hand insights allowed him to develop a deep understanding of how asthma medication might be re-considered to fit more realistically around people’s lives.

The student identified an opportunity for a more convenient, less-stigmatising reliever inhaler to provide ‘just enough’ medication in a compact, intuitive and attractive package. Respiratory clinicians and other people living with asthma have advocated the dry powder device designed in response to this 18-month project. Hallam University has filed a UK patent application to protect this novel drug delivery method and we are encouraged to have received the initial examination report with minimal citations. We are currently discussing the concept with various medical product manufacturers, hoping to negotiate a licensing deal to make the product a commercial reality.

The device is a compact and easily transportable breath-actuated DPI, which is simple to use, delivering a pre-metered dose of powdered medication. The inhaler contains five shots stored in the sealed unit and is automatically recharged after each use. This, combined with breath actuation, simplifies the process for the individual, resulting in a more effective inhaler that also reduces problems due to poor user technique. The novel drug delivery method is suited to long-term conditions treatable with powdered medication or the delivery of vaccinations or analgesic drugs and fits well with the changing climate for convenient drug dispensing.

“We’re always telling people you must take your inhaler wherever you go and I mean, if you’re going out to a nightclub or off on your mountain bike and this was always attached to your bunch of keys you wouldn’t have any bother would you? I mean the number of people who say – when I hadn’t got my inhaler I had a bad attack. You’ve got something there that hasn’t been done before and there’s a reason for it so therefore I think that’s good. To be able to say to my patients ‘oh do you know about this?’ would be great.”

Clare Daniel, Asthma Nurse Specialist
Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.

Project updates

Lab4Living, Sheffield Hallam University,
Furnival Building, 153 Arundel Street, Sheffield, S1 2NU
Phone 0114 225 6753 | Fax 0114 225 6931