Fund could lead to improved drug screening in hospitals

Intelligent Fingerprinting, a spin-out company from the University of East Anglia, has been given £425,000 to improve drug-screening services in hospital accident and emergency (A&E) and coroners’ departments.

The funding has been awarded by the Biomedical Catalyst — a programme of public funding designed to assist growth in the UK life-sciences sector, delivered by the Medical Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board.

Intelligent Fingerprinting has developed drug-screening technology to analyse the minute amounts of sweat contained in a fingerprint to reveal the recent drug-use history of an individual. It provides results in 10 minutes using a portable handheld device.

A £135,000 award will fund a project in partnership with Leicester University to research the feasibility of using this technology for the fast, non-invasive drug screening of hospital A&E patients on admission.

According to the company, this test could save lives and improve patient care by ensuring that individuals receive appropriate treatment in emergency situations. It could also reduce NHS costs by providing paramedics and hospital staff with a fast, reliable, non-invasive test.

In a statement, Dr Paul Yates, business development manager for Intelligent Fingerprinting, said: ‘Many people admitted to A&E are under the influence of drugs — either legally prescribed medicines or drugs of abuse. But in an emergency situation, clinicians may be unaware of a patient’s medical or drug-use history.

‘Without this knowledge, there is a risk that medical staff will administer treatment that could be harmful or even fatal. This situation is made worse if the patient is confused or unable to speak, or elderly and suffering with a condition that affects memory.’

The funding will be used to aid development of the handheld fingerprint-testing device and prove its feasibility for use in A&E situations by ambulance paramedics and at A&E admission.

A second £290,000 award will fund a study in conjunction with coroners to trial non-invasive drug testing of the deceased.

Yates said: ‘It is sometimes necessary to carry out a drug screen to establish how someone has died. This can be a time-consuming and costly process.

‘By working with coroners, we will test the potential of using Intelligent Fingerprinting as a tool to help determine a possible cause of death more quickly and cost effectively.’

Intelligent Fingerprinting was one of 32 projects to receive a share of £39m in funding from the government-backed Biomedical Catalyst. The awards were made to accelerate the development of innovative solutions to healthcare challenges.