US trials help Bioquell clean up losses

Following a successful trial of its technology in the US, Bioquell, the UK bio-decontamination specialist, enjoyed a strong end to 2005, transforming a £700,000 loss into a small profit.

Its 10-month superbug eradication trial, which produced a 53 per cent reduction in hospital-acquired infections, has resulted in the Hampshire company increasing its turnover 11 per cent to £17.2m.

The group now expects US sales growth to outstrip the UK because of the financial woes afflicting the NHS.

Bioquell said data presented at a leading US healthcare infection control conference, in collaboration with the US Government’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), showed that the use of its technology significantly reduced the rate of patient infection with Clostridium difficile — an antibiotic superbug that recently mutated to produce a new, hyper-virulent strain that causes severe illness and possible death.

The technology, developed three years ago, enables rooms or buildings to be bio-decontaminated and achieve the same level of sterility as when a steam steriliser is used — thanks to its hydrogen peroxide vapour technology. Prior to this innovation, it was not realistically practical or feasible for hospitals to sterilise rooms or wards to eradicate problematic bacteria.

The company believes it has applications in the life sciences sector, for example vaccine production for the eradication of avian flu and potential in the healthcare sector worldwide, to combat infection and superbugs such as MRSA. Its technology has been used against avian flu in an Asian government research laboratory.

Bioquell chairman John Salkeld said: ‘Excellent progress has been made over the last 12 months on a number of fronts, including the critical research which demonstrates that Bioquell can significantly reduce the number of patients being infected by hospital acquired infection.

‘This data is extremely important as it demonstrates scientifically for the first time the link between the eradication of bacteria giving rise to a reduction in patient infection rates,’ he said.

It is believed that up to 40 UK hospitals are affected with the new strain. Stoke Mandeville was the first to admit publicly to having this problem, which Bioquell helped eradicate last year. However, the company believes that in the light of the NHS’s poor financial state, a significantly faster adoption of its technology will occur in the US healthcare sector.

‘As with all technologies, forecasting adoption rates is difficult; however, successful trials in the US means that we are increasingly confident about achieving fast growth in north America,’ said Salkeld. The company has also been developing novel, wound-healing technology, drawing upon its expertise in R&D, complex engineering and applying peroxide-based technology.

Chronic wounds — those which have typically not healed after six weeks — are a substantial and expensive problem for healthcare providers.

Following successful clinical trials carried out last year, a further set will start later this year.

Work is now being carried out to secure UK regulatory approval to launch a product on the EU market.