A NEW company which aims to commercialise mobile devices which can detect diseases on the spot and potentially save many lives has won a funding boost.
The joint venture between Newcastle nanotechnology firm Orla ProteinTechnologies, which owns 80% of the business OJ-Bio, and multi-billion pound Japanese electronics giant Japan Radio has taken another step forward with a near £100,000 grant from regional development agency One North East.
Orla is combining its biotechnology expertise with JRC’s manufacturing capabilities to develop hand-held devices which can diagnose diseases by taking an on-the-spot sample of a bodily fluid via a special chip.
The device will send the results wirelessly to a third party, making it ideal for airport quarantine situations. OJ-Bio products could be ready within a year, though it may take longer for mass production.
As current samples need to be taken and sent to a diagnostic laboratory for analysis and the results then relayed to doctors for diagnosis, OJ-Bio’s system will drastically reduce disease detection from weeks to a matter of days, if not even hours, which should ultimately help to halt or slow down the spread of diseases.
Orla chief executive Dale Athey said: “The new devices have the potential to revolutionise patient testing, allowing for rapid sensitive detection at the point of care where there is no need for complicated equipment and wireless transmission can send results instantly to a network.
“This sort of device will open up new opportunities in the market for rapid diagnostics. It’s a multi-million pound opportunity and will bring significant returns to Orla, its stakeholders and the North East economy.”
The product forms the final stage of the three year Virasens project led by its parent companies, in association with Newcastle University, to develop a biosensor device based on protein surface capture and surface acoustic wave (SAW) chip technologies.
The Virasens project was made possible after Orla secured £1m from a £10m pot of cash set up by the Department of Health and Technology Strategy Board. The pair identified an unmet need for mobile, disposable and rapid detection of diseases such as Avian Flu.
Dr Athey added: “The project is moving forward very well. The technical teams here at OJ-Bio and in Japan are making great progress, and we are ramping up our commercial activity as a consequence. The continued support of One North East through this R&D grant has enabled OJ-Bio to maintain momentum in a competitive market.”
Eleanor Anderson, business finance R&D specialist advisor at One North East, said: “This technology has the potential to save many thousands of lives, especially in remote and underprivileged areas of Africa and Asia where access to medical care is poor and diseases like malaria can run rife.
“For the North East, this venture stands testament to the leading scientific and manufacturing expertise that exists here. Equally so, it shows the true power of working partnerships with two world-leading experts from completely different backgrounds joining forces.”