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18 July, 2018 - 13:03 By Tony Quested

Taking the power of infrared disease diagnosis into primary care

Infrared spectroscopy is a powerful technique for the diagnosis of respiratory diseases and cancer, but it requires specialist expertise and equipment so its application has been limited to hospitals. 

However, this is set to change thanks to Cambridge-based medical diagnostics company Glyconics, which has developed a way to miniaturise the technology, thereby paving the way for the world’s first hand-held spectroscopy device for point-of-care testing. 

Glyconics CEO Dr Kam Pooni (pictured above) comments: “Our device would accelerate diagnosis in primary care and allow patients to monitor their own conditions at home.” 

The Glyconics technology uses Infrared (IR) Spectroscopy to analyse samples for markers of disease across a wide range of conditions. It recently received an Innovate UK grant to help commercialise its device, which can justifiably be described as revolutionary. 

A low-cost device would allow faster, more accurate diagnosis for millions of patients worldwide with huge inherent time and cost savings. The company is in the process of raising further development capital to take the prototype into clinical trials next year and this is already attracting significant commitment. 

Dr Pooni says: “A massive global market, combined with an ongoing desire to detect diseases as early as possible, makes novel diagnostic technology a highly fertile area for investment.”

Earlier this year the European Commission awarded Glyconics a coveted Seal of Excellence, a quality label awarded to project proposals submitted to Horizon 2020 which succeeded a highly competitive evaluation process by independent experts. 

This quality label is a guarantee for investors to find high standard project proposals from European SMEs with growth potential. Glyconics was also identified as ‘One to Watch’ in Business Weekly’s ‘Killer 50’ initiative.

While the technology has a clear edge in the field of respiratory medicine and diabetes, Dr Pooni believes it can be leveraged for other conditions and diseases including – ultimately – even lung cancer.

Dr Pooni says: “To date, IR Spectroscopy could only be undertaken in a laboratory by highly trained staff. With Glyconics technology, however, that’s changing. 

“Nanotechnology has reduced the delivery mechanism to a hand-held device that identifies spectra waves from samples. The result is highly accurate diagnostic data in minutes with clear cost implications for Healthcare systems especially Primary Care.

Large unmet need

The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) market alone promises major financial rewards: 200 million people in the EU, UK, US, China and India have COPD, with 36.6 million newly diagnosed cases each year. 

Around one in 10 of these patients are at risk of exacerbations and need daily monitoring, adding up to 1.3 billion tests per annum. Glyconics has positioned the business to meet the need for diagnostic innovation in this area.

Dr Pooni adds: “Diagnostic testing plays a major role in modern medicine, supporting up to 70 per cent of clinical decisions. Our solution makes it more feasible for GPs to diagnose and analyse a condition within a 10 or 15 minute appointment slot.

“Point-of-care testing is of considerable interest to clinicians and payors alike, as it has the potential to improve outcomes by optimising prescribing decisions, reducing referrals and enhancing efficiency of care.”

Based at St John’s Innovation Centre, Glyconics has a highly experienced management team and board. CEO Dr Pooni has over 20 years’ expertise in building and energising geographically dispersed teams to deliver first-rate, value added results. 

Dr Pooni was a senior director at Astellas Pharmaceuticals Europe and has worked across Europe, the US, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Also, key to Glyconics’ stage of development, he worked on the financial side at Reuters, which has helped the company build a demonstrable pathway to market.

Future of medical diagnosis

Dr Pooni says: “That pathway is already clearly mapped out: our technology is a clear pathfinder to deliver truly stratified medicines. Current medical diagnostics are often expensive, complex and unduly invasive. Our solution is quick, accurate, much lower cost and labour saving for GPs and their patients.

“It is high time medical diagnostics stepped up to the plate in the broader scheme of things as we try to improve diagnosis and treatment of patients and show system benefits to healthcare systems.” 

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