UK company moves forward with mobile device for flu diagnosis
A new biosensor device for flu diagnosis, under development by Newcastle, U.K.-based OJ-Bio, will move to its next stage with government backing toward the £1-million-plus project from Biomedical Catalyst, a program of public funding designed to deliver growth to the U.K. life sciences sector.
OJ-Bio made the announcement on Dec. 18, stating that its device is intended to provide rapid, simple and low-cost diagnoses of flu and respiratory conditions.
The new technology combines specialized biosensor materials with advanced electronics in a small, hand-held device for the accurate detection of flu and other respiratory conditions from patient-supplied samples, according to OJ-Bio.
The device can be used at the patient’s bedside or other point of care; the results are available within minutes, and without need of a laboratory analysis.
OJ-Bio has worked with the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency over the past three years to develop and test the new biosensor device, which successfully detected three potent respiratory viruses more quickly than current methods, company officials said.
Included in the test protocol are the Influenza A and B viruses, common flu strains previously linked to some major epidemics, and Respiratory Synctyial Virus, a major cause of coughs and chest infections.
OJ-Bio said the latest funding approval would enable the company to build on its existing work by developing lab-based prototypes into a fully functional pilot device capable of carrying out large-scale clinical trials.
“Flu viruses cause misery for millions of people each year and early diagnosis is vital," said Dale Athey, chief executive of OJ-Bio, in a press release. "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,” he said.
OJ-Bio is a joint venture between Newcastle-based biotechnology company Orla Protein Technologies and the Japan Radio Company (JRC). Orla provides the specialist biosensor materials that combine with JRC’s electronics capability to create the new "biochip" technology platform.
The biochip allows the diagnostic device to analyze samples from the patient and display the results on a complementary hand-held reading device such as a mobile phone. JRC’s technology also enables the detection device to be wirelessly connected to healthcare networks.