New dementia test to cut diagnosis time by 75%

£39m government funding pot to accelerate development of innovative medical technologies

The time it takes to diagnose dementia could be slashed from 18 months to just 12 weeks after the Government announced funding for an innovative new digital testing system.

The test, developed as part of a collaborative project led by Ixico, will be further developed with the help of a grant from a £39m Government moneypot on offer as part of the Biomedical Catalyst, an integrated Technology Strategy Board programme of activities aimed at supporting business-led innovation in the health sector. It runs alongside other targeted programmes such as the Assisted Living Innovation Platform, the Stratified Medicine Innovation Platform and the Regenerative Medicine programme, which address key challenges in the development and delivery of future healthcare technologies and systems.

Britain is in a global race today and this £39m investment will help keep us at the very forefront of life sciences by supporting some of our most innovative SMEs and universities

The dementia technology has been designed to be deployed in memory clinics or brain health centres and combines computerised cognitive testing and quantitative imaging to make the high quality of information currently available only in highly-specialist centres accessible to all doctors.

The money will enable Ixico,Cambridge Cognition and their academic partners to build and test a prototype within the NHS and demonstrate its value before developing a refined prototype that can be rolled-out nationally.

The grant is one of 32 announced by the Government this week as part of the Biomedical Catalyst. In total, £29.6m has been agreed for 22 projects led by small and medium-sized companies, while a further £9.5m has been awarded to 10 projects led by academic institutions .

Recipients also Immunocore, which will use the money to take forward the clinical development of a new targeted therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer.

By providing vital finance to help at least some of these companies to evaluate, develop and demonstrate their exciting healthcare innovations, the Biomedical Catalyst is helping to turn promising ideas into innovative technologies faster, so providing greater benefits to patients through improvements in health outcomes

The company has developed a new class of biologic drug which recognises changes within cells so can be used to treat diseases such as prostate cancer that are not currently amenable to targeted biological therapies.

And scientists at the University of Oxford will use their funding to conduct human trials of a universal flu jab that could protect against all known strains of the virus, including the more serious bird flu and swine flu. If successful, it could eventually replace annual flu jabs.

Also working to tackle the problem of infectious diseases is Newcastle-based OJ-Bio, which has secured funding to develop a new device which combines specialist bio-sensor materials with advanced electronics to detect flu and other respiratory conditions from patient supplied samples.

The device can be used at the patient’s bedside or other point of care, such as a GP surgery or pharmacy, with the results being available within minutes and without samples needing to be sent for laboratory analysis.

The technology has been developed in conjunction with the Health Protection Agency and has been proven to detect three potent respiratory viruses much more quickly than using current methods. Included are the Influenza A and B viruses, common flu strains previously linked to some major epidemics, and Respiratory Synctyial Virus (RSV), a major cause of coughs and chest infections.

Our new device provides a low-cost test that dramatically improves the speed of diagnosis and treatment that should hit the disease at source and limit its ability to spread

Commenting on the grant, Dale Athey, chief executive of OJ-Bio, said: “This award will enable us to accelerate the development of our new product which we believe has significant market potential.

“Flu viruses cause misery for millions of people each year and early diagnosis is vital. Drugs are only effective in the first few days after symptoms appear and current tests which involve laboratory analysis of samples simply aren’t fast enough.

“Our new device provides a low-cost test that dramatically improves the speed of diagnosis and treatment that should hit the disease at source and limit its ability to spread.”

Announcing the cash, David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “Britain is in a global race today and this £39m investment will help keep us at the very forefront of life sciences by supporting some of our most innovative SMEs and universities. It will help take excellent ideas through to market, driving growth and helping patients benefit from the very latest technologies and treatments.”

And Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, which is managing the Biomedical Catalyst fund, added: “We have been hugely impressed by the number and quality of applications, which just goes to show the strength, vitality and innovative spirit of the UK’s world-leading life sciences industry.

OJ Bio is working on a new sensor for influenza and serious respiratory diseases

”By providing vital finance to help at least some of these companies to evaluate, develop and demonstrate their exciting healthcare innovations, the Biomedical Catalyst is helping to turn promising ideas into innovative technologies faster, so providing greater benefits to patients through improvements in health outcomes.”

The decision to provide support funding has been welcomed by the BioIndustry Association, which claims it will play a key part in ensuring the success of UK healthcare companies.

Its chief executive, Steve Bates, told BBH : "This latest announcement of BioMedical Catalyst funding is a very welcome boost for UK bioscience, a key UK export sector. It will support 22 innovative companies researching and developing new treatments and technologies for improved patient benefit. It's great that the UK's excellence in medical research can now move closer to becoming therapies for patients.

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