Leading life science instrumentation company BJS Biotechnologies has announced it is to lead a London consortium to finalise development of a rapid POC (point of care) sepsis testing system. Called SEPSIS-xxpress, the new system combines BJS’s excellence in sample preparation, automation and real-time PCR with Brunel University London’s microfluidic engineering skills, while St Georges, University of London, will run clinical trials. With an estimated 25 million annual cases of sepsis (blood poisoning) worldwide and over 37,000 avoidable deaths in the UK, the effective diagnosis of sepsis is a major unmet medical need. Delivering rapid actionable results in a POC setting will enable the correct antimicrobial treatment to be given, treatments that are tailored to the specific antibiotic-resistant pathogen(s). As well as dramatically improving patient outcomes, BJS Biotechnologies calculates SEPSIS-xxpress will save an average of 11 days in ICU per patient, a saving of £2 billion to the NHS alone.
According to BJS Biotechnologies CEO Nick Burroughs, technical barriers have until now prevented the development of a fully automated POC system of the right sensitivity: “Current tests require several days of pre-test enrichment, time a sepsis patient just doesn’t have. SEPSIS-xxpress overcomes this barrier with a highly innovative sample preparation chemistry able to isolate very small quantities (<10 CFUs) of bacterial and fungal DNA from a large sample of whole blood (10ml). The consortium now aims to integrate this with the BJS’ ultra-fast qPCR system and a patented Sepsis-Panel assay into a fully automated system that delivers actionable results in under 2 hours.”
Today’s announcement has been welcomed by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson as a further sign of how London’s life sciences sector is thriving. Last year, the Mayor launched his MedCity initiative, which aims to join up the London-Oxford-Cambridge life sciences sector into a world-leading, collaborative cluster for biomedical research, development, manufacturing and commercialisation.
Welcoming the news, the Mayor Boris Johnson said: “London is a leading city globally for life-changing science and that is in no small part down to energetic companies like BJS Biotechnologies collaborating with our unrivalled academic and research base to deliver new therapies and better healthcare for us all. It is our aim through MedCity to further this lead and propel the sector to become an even more valuable contributor to the capital’s economy.”
The Brunel University London team is headed by Professor Balachandran: “Our focus will be the microfluidic cartridge design and the analysis of trial data. The team here has a history of innovation and following substantial investment now has excellent facilities for developing molecular diagnostic devices. We believe this project will lead to a real breakthrough in what is in effect a war against sepsis by providing rapid and reliable assessment at the actual point of care.” Professor Balachandran will be assisted by Dr Emmanouil Karteris and Dr Ruth Mackay.
The team at St Georges Medical School is headed by Dr Tim Planche. They will be delivering a proof of principle study to assess diagnostic accuracy and an ease of use feasibility study of the system in an ICU setting. Dr Planche has extensive experience of running clinical trials and is known for his work on antibiotic resistance, managing sepsis and hospital acquired infections in a clinical environment.