20 UK firms to lead development of diagnostic devices for sepsis

£15m moneypot will improve research and development of tools to reduce deaths from infectious diseases

Twenty UK medical technology companies will share a £15m moneypot aimed at fast-tracking the development of innovative diagnostic devices to reduce the number of deaths and illnesses caused by sepsis and infectious diseases.

Grant funding of £8m from the Technology Strategy Board, the Department of Health, the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council, will be matched by funding from the companies involved, bringing the total value of the cash injection to just over £15m.

The money will pay for 12 new research and development projects that aim to improve the future diagnosis, detection and management of sepsis, a life-threatening illness caused by the body overreacting to an infection.

There is universal recognition of the need for new and improved diagnostic tools to help in the management of sepsis

Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, explained: “There is universal recognition of the need for new and improved diagnostic tools to help in the management of sepsis. The products that will emerge from this important research and development will help to reduce the economic burden, death and illness from sepsis and infectious diseases and create opportunities for UK companies in the huge global market for diagnostic devices.”

The projects will see UK-based companies working collaboratively with more than a dozen universities, research organisations and NHS foundation trusts. They follow successful applications by the consortia to two competitions managed by the Technology Strategy Board.

The Multi-pathogen detection and/or simple discrimination competition sought proposals for projects to develop point-of-care diagnostic tools to assist clinicians and health workers in the management of sepsis, while the Advancing biomarker use in sepsis management competition looked for R&D projects that would advance the effective use of biomarkers in the management of the condition.

The projects will be led by BD Biosciences, BioGene, HPA Microbiological Services Porton, Inanovate UK, Magna Parva, MAST Group, MicroLab Devices, Mologic, Randox Laboratories, Sepsis Ltd, and Smiths Detection Watford. Taking into account the other organisations that make up the 12 consortia, companies and experts from every part of the UK will take part in the research and development activity.

The projects include work that will lead to the development of:

  • Point-of-care devices to detect multiple pathogens and antibiotic resistance profiles
  • A rapid test (taking less than three minutes) to detect the presence of bacteria in blood
  • Devices capable of detecting pathogens and the host response in a single system in less than 15 minutes
  • Biomarker-based cellular assays to predict stages of infection and sepsis; Tests incorporating physical and biological measurements that can be used in multiple settlings to detect the early signs of infection and sepsis

The products that will emerge from this important research and development will help to reduce the economic burden, death and illness from sepsis and infectious diseases and create opportunities for UK companies in the huge global market for diagnostic devices

The Technology Strategy Board used the Multi-pathogen detection and/or simple discrimination competition to pilot a planned initiative called Design Option , which aims to help businesses think more about design at the start of their research and development projects. Through the initiative, applicants to this competition were offered free access to design mentors while they were in the early stages of developing their project proposals. Five requests for Design Option assistance were received and approved and three of these were invited to submit full applications, with two ultimately successful in securing offers of grant funding.

The funding programme is part of the Technology Strategy Board-managed Detection and Identification of Infectious Agents (DIIA) Innovation Platform , which is managing a range of government investment in innovative research and development into diagnostic tests and devices that will help to cut the number of deaths and cases of illness caused by infectious agents in humans and animals, while reducing the economic burden.

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