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24 January, 2012 - 13:21 By Tony Quested

Cambridge diagnostics firms win TSB cash to fight infectious agents

Helen Lee’s team at Diagnostics for the Real World

Two Cambridge healthcare projects are among three in the UK to share more than £1m of funding from the Technology Strategy Board in a battle against infectious agents.

The strategy is designed to develop new and improved health-economics tools or products that will improve the design and evaluation of diagnostic clinical trials for these agents.

Cambridge based Diagnostics for the Real World (Europe) Ltd, and Integrated Medicines Ltd, based at Caxton just outside Cambridge, are the local beneficiaries.

Helen Lee’s team at Diagnostics for the Real World is developing a new cost effectiveness tool that can be used by health commissioners and providers to assess the costs and benefits of introducing a POC Chlamydia Rapid Test.

The new tool will overcome limitations of existing models and provide empirical data to fill evidence gaps identified by the NHS Health Technology Assessment of the current process.

The aim of the Integrated Medicines project is to understand the costs and outcomes associated with introducing a point-of-care diagnostic test – the ‘BRAHMS’ procalcitonin test – into the management of patients presenting with sepsis.

The project will lead to greater connectivity between hospital emergency departments and intensive care units and provide the latter with better guidance on appropriate therapeutic interventions.

Iain Gray, chief executive of TSB, said: “Supporting innovation in healthcare is a priority for the Technology Strategy Board. Through these contracts we look forward to seeing the development of new and improved health-economics modelling tools that will help companies and organisations design and evaluate diagnostic clinical trials.

“We hope these new tools will lead to better adoption of diagnostic products by providing assessors and decision-makers with high-quality data on their impact.”

The Diagnostics Development Unit at Cambridge University was established almost a decade ago by a group of industry scientists who worked at Real World, which has operations at Cambridge Science Park and in California.

The goal of the unit is to develop innovative tests that are rapid, simple, cost-effective and more sensitive than currently available rapid tests. This new generation of point-of-care tests are intended for the detection of infectious agents that cause serious health problems in resource-limited settings, particularly in developing countries, while remaining useful and desirable in point of care settings in the developed world.

The DDU team has extensive experience in multiple disciplines such as nucleic acid chemistry, microbiology, molecular biology, monoclonal antibody production, material sciences, and the regulatory affairs necessary for product development.

Technologies under development include sample extraction and rapid and sensitive detection of infectious disease targets (DNA, RNA, antigen or antibodies). The team has developed two technology platforms, SAS (Signal Amplified System) for protein targets and SAMBA (Simple amplification based assay) for nucleic acids.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Helen Lee’s team at Diagnostics for the Real World

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