'Global opportunity' for North East biosensor technology to lead the way on detecting diseases

OJ Bio Ltd has completed the prototype development of a new diagnosis system that accurately and quickly identifies the presence of disease biomarkers in a range of patient samples

(c) North News & Pictures ltd Dale Athey, chief executive of OJ Bio
Dale Athey, chief executive of OJ Bio

Clinical trials are being planned for breakthrough technology developed in the North East, which could ultimately lead to better detection of infectious diseases throughout the world.

OJ Bio Ltd., based in Newcastle’s International Centre for Life, has completed the prototype development of a new diagnosis system that accurately and quickly identifies the presence of disease biomarkers in a range of patient samples.

The innovative hand-held technology uses specially-developed biochips in combination with a specialist reader and supporting software on a mobile phone app, or a PC.

From biological samples, it can detect the presence of disease antigens, translated into electronic signals. Unlike other rapid test systems, this can provide a measure of the target biomarker, rather than just a yes or no result.

Its convenient size also means it can be used at a patient’s bed-side, home, GP surgery or pharmacy, with the results being available immediately.

The technology might also be used for rapid mass-screening in the case of a major disease outbreak and, since the platform allows the detection of any protein biomarkers, the application areas are broad.

Investigative work has already been conducted with Public Health England to verify the ability of the technology to detect viruses much quicker than current methods and formal clinical trials using the device to detect three common flu-like viruses are planned to begin this year.

OJ-Bio is also well advanced in developing similar products for periodontal gum disease and HIV.

In addition, the technology can be used to detect the presence of C-reactive protein - a biomarker of inflammatory disease, which can be used to rule out serious bacterial infections and ultimately reduce the inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics.

The prototype of OJ Bio's new diagnosis system
The prototype of OJ Bio's new diagnosis system

Dale Athey, chief executive of OJ Bio, said: “Our new device provides a low cost test that dramatically improves the speed of diagnosis and treatment of any infections present.

“The flexibility of the technology platform has wide ranging potential, not only for the detection and monitoring of human medical infections and conditions, but also for example in animal testing by veterinary practices.

“Recent progress has enabled us to accelerate the development of our system and projects are underway with partners in several market sectors which involve the use of the technology in a wide range of medical and healthcare applications.”

The state-of-the-art biosensors at the heart of the system stemmed from a fusion of advanced technology from parent companies, Orla Protein Technologies Ltd, also based at the Centre for Life, and Japanese electronics company Japan Radio Company Co, Ltd.

The two firms pulled together in 2009 to create OJ Bio as joint venture company, aiming to develop and commercialise products based on a convergence of technologies

“The bio, R&D and development work is being carried out here and that will require at least some small-scale manufacturing,” Mr Athey added.

“That will lead to job creation.

“We have 14 staff across Orla and OJ Bio currently, but within two or three years, I could imagine that rising to 20 or 30.

“If all goes well, we could perhaps bring further manufacturing here in the future.

“But this is a global opportunity and we would be looking at manufacturing at a number of sites.

“The product is applicable to mass manufacturing so we would be able to keep the costs down.”


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