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19 October, 2006 - 13:16 By Staff Reporter

Nanotech + wristwatch = medical breakthrough

Cambridge nanotechnology firm, Akubio is using the technology core of the bog standard digital wristwatch to develop a new portable and low cost, rapid response disease diagnosis device, which could help doctors make instant and accurate diagnoses for diseases such as Malaria and Meningitis.Akubio, has received £826k in funding from the Government as part of a £1.65m development programme, which will run over the next three years. The project is part-funded by a Collaborative R&D grant under the DTI's Technology Programme.

Akubio says its device will be substantially different from other diagnostic devices currently on the market (which require the addition of expensive chemicals to a sample to enable disease detection).

The technology utilises the quartz crystal element from a simple wristwatch and can be powered by standard batteries and could enable doctors to make instant, accurate, at-the-bedside or in-the-field medical diagnoses from blood or other samples.

Science & Innovation Minister Lord Sainsbury who announced the grant said: “This project will turn frontier research in nanotechnology and biotech into a marketable product which can create wealth and improve the quality of our lives.”

The device’s sensor detects specific molecules within a sample, using miniaturised echo sounder acoustic technology to determine the presence of marker proteins for a particular disease or disease causing pathogens such as bacteria or viruses including Bird Flu, Meningitis, E.coli, Malaria, heart attack, stroke and even some cancers.

Akubio’s chief scientist Dr Matthew Cooper said: “Building on our first commercial product, RAP·id 4, this funding will accelerate our development programme for the portable device and its companion products. Our work is a proprietary application combining the very latest in nanotechnology with the mass-produced quartz crystal resonator that is used in everyday appliances. Disease detection and patient monitoring has the potential to be significantly improved and there may also be cost benefits for hospitals and surgeries that could perform tests themselves rather than send away for them, potentially resulting in quicker diagnosis and improved treatment regimes.”

Akubio’s development partners are the University of Cambridge and Melton Mowbray-based magnetic particle firm Reagent Mine Ltd.

University of Cambridge Professor of Biological Chemistry Chris Abell said: "I am delighted to be part of this collaboration, helping to forge links between academia and innovative industrial partners. The development of novel solutions for the detection of life threatening diseases is a very important area of research and one in which this kind of industry-academia partnership potentially offers great synergies."

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