Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects around 11,000 people in the UK, and over 160,000 globally. One of the most significant bugs that causes infections in people with cystic fibrosis is Pseudomonas aeruginosa (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.
Researchers said 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.
In a statement, Dr Shaun N Robertson from the school of life sciences, Nottingham University, 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 spin-out company, that will eventually manufacture the diagnostic kits, has been funded by Innovate UK’s Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research Exploit (ICURe) 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, offering them time away from the lab to meet with 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, such as further research or funding.
MiDx’s commercialisation has been led by Dr Robertson, in collaboration with Professor Miguel Cámara from Nottingham University, who developed the diagnostic test through support and funding from NBIC and Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
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.”