A new device for diagnosing cervical cancer has won its creator a One to Watch award from Enterprise Ireland.
The analyser — based on Raman spectroscopy and an algorithm developed at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) — can detect cervical pre-cancer in Pap smears, a process currently carried out by skilled cytologists.
DIT’s Dr Fiona Lyng, who received the award in Dublin yesterday, is developing the analyser with colleagues at the Radiation and Environmental Science Centre and collaborators at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital.
Raman spectroscopy is a way of studying molecular structures using laser light, by examining how the photons in the beam interact with the molecules.
The technique can quickly generate a biochemical fingerprint of a sample without damaging it and is sensitive to subtle molecular changes, allowing variations corresponding to the onset of disease to be detected.
Lyng’s system can analyse and classify both cervical tissue and cervical smear samples with high sensitivity and specificity by comparing them with a pre-defined sample database.
The researchers say that the analyser could be used alongside the current histopathology and cytology methods to improve cervical cancer screening and diagnosis.
Irish minister for research and innovation Sean Sherlock said: ‘Lyng’s system has the potential to revolutionise the diagnosis of cervical cancer.
‘With the support of Enterprise Ireland and DIT Hothouse, plans are in place to commercialise this important technology through a spin-out company. The work is an excellent example of the positive social and economic impact of research outputs.’
Enterprise Ireland, which has funded the development of the technology for five years, is now working closely with the DIT team and business partner Paul Hands to establish a spin-out company called Raman Diagnostics that will commercialise the technology.