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29 August, 2019 - 15:54 By Tony Quested

New stroke blood test may prove a POCKiT-ful of miracles

Cambridge startup POCKiT diagnostics is primed for major growth in the US and Europe as it ramps funding to underpin commercialisation of a new blood test to diagnose potentially fatal strokes.

The young company has been chosen to lead a near-£1 million collaboration R & D programme funded by Innovate UK.

POCKiT is raising further significant funds through a seed round before the end of this year.

The Innovate UK cash will accelerate development of the blood test which diagnoses the subtype of brain stroke suffered in a fraction of the time normally taken – hastening the correct treatment and slashing the human, social and financial costs of strokes.

A collaboration of academia, medicine and businesses led by POCKiT diagnostics is undertaking the R & D programme.

Brain strokes are the third leading cause of death and the primary cause of physical disability and dementia worldwide. They affect 100,000 people a year in the UK alone, with two thirds of suffers leaving hospital with severe disability. This problem is set to rise as the population ages – with a 44 per cent increase in stroke cases forecast by 2035.

In a stroke the brain is damaged by restricted blood flow, causing brain cells to die off. There are two main types of stroke – Ischemic stroke (IS) and Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH). While they have similar symptoms the treatment for each is completely different with the wrong type of treatment often proving fatal. 

While the importance of correct diagnoses in stroke cases is undoubted – time is another critical factor. If the correct treatment is administered fast enough the patient may recover with little or no damage to the brain. Unfortunately, treatment is often delayed while patients are transported to hospital, says POCKiT diagnostics CEO Gonzalo Ladreda.

POCKiT diagnostics’ has discovered new biomarkers that are in patient’s blood after a stroke. The blood test can be taken by ambulance personnel/first responder and the appropriate treatment determined and delivered in a shorter period of time upon arriving at the hospital – reducing average treatment time in 90 minutes.

The company’s recent successes include being accepted into the Accelerate programme at Cambridge Judge Business School, being a finalist at Santander Entrepreneurship Awards, [email protected] and PanaceaStars. 

Its success is rooted in effective partnerships with Capillary Film Technology Ltd, Oxford AHSN/Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Absolute Antibody Ltd, Newcastle University and The Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. 

Ladreda told Business Weekly: “We could not be happier to have received this grant, which will allow us to carry on the development of what we believe to be a live changing device – one that could save the suffering of millions each year. 

“Looking to the future, our prime markets are the USA and Europe. Developed countries already have a structure in place for stroke management, which makes our test a perfect tool to improve care.

“We plan to validate the test in two phases. The first phase has started and we will recruit over 200 patients before the end of 2019 in Newcastle, UK. 
“Also, we have collaborators in the US, China, Germany and Spain who will help us to finish the second phase of our test validation. We aim to have regulatory approval for our test in December 2020.

“The Innovate UK grant is a two-year project running to December 2020. We have already raised over £100,000 in investment from Cambridge Enterprise and Creator fund. 

“Finally, we are raising £250,000 before the end of the year as part of our Seed Round. This will be enough to enable us to take our test to market.”

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