Thursday, February 29, 2024

University of Nottingham spin-out company will develop rapid diagnostic kits for people with cystic fibrosis

People with cystic fibrosis will be able to test themselves at home for a common bacterium that can lead to a dangerous infection, thanks to a new diagnostic kit developed by experts from the University of Nottingham.

The creation of a spin-out company, that will eventually manufacture the diagnostic kits, has been made possible thanks to the award of an Innovate UK-funded ICURe (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research) Exploit grant, which has enabled the experts to turn their research into a market-ready business. This grant followed a successful Biofilms ICURe Sprint grant in partnership with the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC).

ICURe is a programme of market discovery whereby early career researchers can establish if there is a commercial market for their research, science, or technology. It essentially offers them time ‘out of the lab’ to speak to potential customers, partners, and investors to validate the commercial potential of their innovation.

At the end of this process, a panel known as the ‘options roundabout’ will recommend the best commercialisation pathway – that could include carrying out further research, exploring licensing opportunities or seeking funding for spinning out the business.

The University spin-out company, called MiDx Ltd, will be headed by Dr Shaun N Robertson from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham. He has led the commercialisation efforts alongside Professor Miguel Cámara who has developed a simple, specific, and non-invasive diagnostic test to enable the rapid detection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P.a.) in people with cystic fibrosis partly through funding from NBIC and Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects around 11,000 people in the UK, and over 160,000 globally. One of the most important bugs that causes infections in people with cystic fibrosis, is P.a. – a bacterium that is present everywhere, but rarely has negative effects on people with healthy lungs. For people with cystic fibrosis this bacterium can be deadly, and it is the leading cause of decline in lung health, compromising people’s quality of life.

There is a pressing need for a straightforward, precise, and non-invasive diagnostic approach to identify P.a. during initial pulmonary infections, allowing for quicker and more straight-forward medical intervention. MiDx has pinpointed biomarkers unique to P.a., aiming to use them for the creation of an uncomplicated, cost-effective, and precise Point of Care diagnostic test for early detection of this pathogen.

Dr Shaun N Robertson from the School of Life Sciences said: “Through our research, we have developed clinically validated unique biomarkers of P.a. infection, patented their use and generated antibodies against them with high sensitivity and excellent specificity. This has enabled us to develop a lateral flow test which people with cystic fibrosis will be able to perform themselves at home.

“Thanks to our work with ICURe, and follow-on funding, we have been able to lay the foundations for this new spin-out, where we can now look at getting this test to market. We have also found significant scope for growth into other conditions where a lateral flow device for P.a. would be of interest, principally in non-CF bronchiectasis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.”

The team from Nottingham are part of the SETsquared-delivered ICURe Exploit cohort, which have been also successful in securing follow-on funding of £300,000, to turn their biofilms-related innovations into world-leading spin-outs.

Dr Lucy Allen, Director of Research and Healthcare data at Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said: “A quick and simple test to detect Pseudomonas aeruginosa could be game-changing for those with cystic fibrosis, so we’re delighted the Trust’s early support for this research has moved it a step closer to commercialisation. Rapid detection will allow for swifter treatment, preventing further long-term lung damage.”

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