Midas touch

Edinburgh University has agreed a contract to market a technology which can clean surgical instruments contaminated by CJD.

Edinburgh University has agreed a contract to market a technology which can clean surgical instruments contaminated by CJD, and save the health industry thousands of pounds.

Edinburgh University’s commercialisation arm, Edinburgh Research and Innovation (ERI), and US equipment supplier Plasma Etch, have agreed to collaborate in licensing the process, known as Midas, and the equipment used to implement it. ERI now intends to offer licences directly to companies which supply sterilised medical cleaning and sterilisation equipment.

The deal follows a recent warning from Prof James Ironside, of the National CJD Surveillance Unit at Edinburgh University, of the risks of spreading the disease via surgical instruments.

The Midas technique has been shown to remove prions, the infectious agents which cause CJD in humans and BSE and scrapie in animals. In this process plasma, a high-energy ionised form of gas, cleans the surface of the instruments, breaking down infectious biological tissue into harmless gases. The technique is at least 1000 times more effective than traditional methods of cleaning.

ERI has applied for a patent for the process, and eventually hopes that the technique will also prove of value to dentists and veterinary surgeons.

Development of the technique was led by Prof Robert Baxter, of Edinburgh University’s School of Chemistry, who said: ‘We are excited at the prospect afforded by this collaboration of developing our laboratory-based studies into efficient and practical solutions for what is a serious problem in healthcare.’

The development was first reported in The Engineer in August 2005. Click here for more details.