A world-leading Newcastle biotech firm is to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support the development of a 'handheld laboratory' that could save millions of lives throughout the world.
QuantuMDx, based at the city’s International Centre for Life, has developed a prototype for the one-of-a-kind technology that can provide an accurate diagnosis for infectious diseases within 15 minutes through a innovative piece of kit not much larger than an iPad.
It is now looking for contributions to further expand clinical trials for the device’s application in the eradication of malaria, which currently kills a child every minute.
If all goes to plan, the Q-POC will be set for commercialisation within a year, and will eventually be rolled out to the UK, Europe, Asia and the USA, first to healthcare professionals, then potentially to the general public.
QuantuMDx chief executive Elaine Warburton OBE said: “Traditionally, there are two types of tests for something like malaria – a cheap one that provides a yes or no answer, but which is not particularly reliable, then a laboratory test that could take several days to a week to produce a result. In the meantime, the disease can be spread and the next thing is you have a whole village infected. What we are doing is putting that technology in the palm of a health professional’s hand. It’s revolutionary and is changing the whole way diagnostics is done.”
QuanuMDx was incorporated in 2008, after inventor Jonathan O’Halloran committed to integrating technologies from a range of industries that combine speed, convenience and low cost with accuracy.
The Q-POC works through reading and sequencing DNA before converting it into binary code using a tiny computer chip. The same hand-held device can be used to diagnose a range of diseases through using different cartridges.
Warburton, who has 25 years’ experience in healthcare and was awarded an OBE this month for innovation in the field, got involved in the early days with her husband Julian, now finance director, to help fund research.
The company, which works closely with Newcastle University and other partners, has since attracted funding from of the UK government, the South African government and the European Union, which provided a £4m grant.
It now employs 40 people throughout the world, with subsidiaries in the like of Singapore and US.
Warburton, who received a warm response when she showed her prototype to cabinet ministers at 10 Downing St, added: “If we get it right, it will put Newcastle on the map as a centre for true innovation with a product that could potentially save the lives of millions of people.”
QuantuMDx, which has also attracted interest from the likes of the World Health Organisation, now wants to raise at least US$50,000 through crowdfunding for trials in developing countries.
However, given similar projects have generated between US$1m and US$2m, it is hopeful of more.
Warburton added: “Not only are we looking for contributors to support this phenomenally worthy cause to help save many hundreds, if not thousands, of children’s lives, but we’re also offering everyone the chance to leave a lasting legacy in the fight against malaria by contributing their winning ideas to the look and feel of our device and to take part in renaming it.”
The campaign will be launched on February 12, with details at www.quantumdx.com