Detecting diseases

A new company is developing a unique technique to diagnose diseases at their earliest stage, hopefully leading to greater success rates in treatment.

Aptuscan has spun out of the work carried out by Dr Paul Ko Ferrigno from the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine. He is one of 65 Enterprise Fellows sponsored by Yorkshire Forward who are exploring ways in which to turn their research into commercial businesses.

Dr Ko Ferrigno’s research focuses on engineering artificial antibodies. Although creating artificial antibodies is not new as a technique for treating disease – the well-known cancer drug Herceptin is based on mimicking the body’s own cancer-fighting antibodies – using them to diagnose diseases is entirely new.

Specifically, Aptuscan is developing alternatives to antibodies known as peptide aptamers, which can bind to proteins with very high affinity and specificity. These peptide aptamers have great potential to revolutionise the diagnosis of disease by providing a method of detecting disease biomarkers.

As well as the Enterprise Fellowship, the company is also being supported by MRC Technology – the commercial arm of the Medical Research Council and IP Group, a company that works closely with Leeds University to invest in and commercialise novel technologies.

Dr Ko Ferrigno said: ‘My work isn’t going to be finished overnight – it will take many years to complete, but the impact on diagnosing patients and the effectiveness of their ensuing treatment could be huge.’