MOD funds predictive sepsis test for coronavirus patients

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Ploughshare Innovations, a Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) spin-out firm, has funded the development of a revolutionary test that has the potential to predict whether coronavirus patients will develop Sepsis before symptoms appear.

£200,000 of initial seed funding has been awarded to Presymptom Health, a medical diagnostics company in Wiltshire founded by scientists to develop ground-breaking innovations in the medical testing arena.

The Sepsis research is based on 10 years of work conducted at Dstl. This research suggests the test will be able to determine whether a patient will develop Sepsis up to three days before symptoms appear. The prediction will provide extra time to deliver the optimal treatment, thus improving patient recovery rates and reducing treatment costs.

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said:

“It is encouraging to see Dstl partnering with the private sector to spearhead vital scientific knowledge that will help many coronavirus patients during this pandemic.

“Dstl scientists are some of the UK’s best and brightest minds. We are grateful for their commitment to developing powerful medical technology that will save lives across the country.”

The first phase for developing the prototype diagnostic test will last six months. This will include trials with coronavirus patients and testing samples from a Dstl biobank. Up to 300 patients are expected to be involved in the trial, with a further 200 samples from the biobank being used to establish the test’s effectiveness.

Gary Aitkenhead, Chief Executive of Dstl said:

“The work we do at Dstl is fundamental to the defence and security of the UK and we are constantly seeking ways in which our technologies can be applied to deliver impact to the wider society.

“Here, we have a unique concept that has the potential to improve the lives of thousands and Dstl is proud to be the science behind this novel development.”

Roman Lukaszewski, lead scientist on the Sepsis work at Dstl said:

“This funding is fantastic news. It will see a programme of work that is backed by the most comprehensive Sepsis study ever conducted and one that I have personally been involved with for more than 10 years finally come to fruition. It will be an amazing achievement and will have benefits for the treatment of Sepsis on a global scale.”

Presymptom Health will recruit a core external team from industry who will provide general management, clinical project management, regulatory and quality assurance and key R&D diagnostic development skills. The test prototype itself will be developed by expert technicians. The team will operate from offices at Porton Science Park and the London area.

Iain Miller, Presymptom Health’s CEO, said:

“This is a significant step to help in the fight against coronavirus. Presymptom Health develops new tests to determine the presence of diseases in patients before they show symptoms.

“Having the opportunity to leverage Dstl’s ground-breaking work and apply this Sepsis technology to aid clinicians dealing with the pandemic is deeply important to us. We are confident this technology will provide vital and life-saving information when it is most needed.”

Ploughshare Innovations is the technology transfer office for Dstl and is responsible for the commercialisation of the test. Ploughshare has established Presymptom Health as the vehicle for getting the tests to market.

Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, Ploughshare’s CEO, said:

“It is unusual for Ploughshare to make investments such as this, however, given how much potential this technology has we saw the value in accelerating its development.

“Beyond coronavirus, the test will have the potential to help with the treatment of the 49 million people worldwide affected by Sepsis every year, and to also prepare us for future pandemics.”

Sepsis has been linked to a number of coronavirus fatalities. A recent Lancet article which analysed the outbreak in Wuhan, China found that Sepsis was the most frequently observed complication and that all Wuhan patients who lost their lives to coronavirus by February 2020 had Sepsis.

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