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Newcastle University spin-out OJ-Bio develops wireless disease detector

Biosensor platforms for real-time medical diagnostics. OJ-Bio

BBSRC-funded surface chemistry research at Newcastle University has developed of a wireless, hand-held disease detector that is being adapted for a range of healthcare applications by companies around the world.

Newcastle University spin-out Orla Protein Technologies was formed in 2002 when Professor Jeremy Lakey recognised his protein research technology had a wide variety of possible uses in the biomedical sciences, such as in cell culture and protein drug development.

In 2009, Orla Protein Technologies established OJ-Bio as a joint business venture with Japan Radio Company (JRC), a multinational supplier of electronic communications technology, to develop devices for disease diagnosis using the protein surfaces developed by Lakey.

Data breakout

$810M Estimated world market for rapid infectious disease testing in 2011
£1M Additional funding from the Technology Strategy Board to develop an instrument capable of detecting gum disease
15 Years of BBSRC funding to develop the protein technology and manufacturing precision

“You take a cotton swab from the back of the throat, put it on this device, and five minutes later you can tell whether somebody’s got influenza or not,” says Professor Jeremy Lakey from Newcastle University.

The protein technology central to these devices is a layer of antibodies 30 000 times thinner than a sheet of paper which grabs proteins specific to a particular disease and binds them to a surface. A surface acoustic wave filter, commonly found in mobile phones, recognises the binding and turns the information into an electrical signal that can then be sent wirelessly to a computer using a smart phone.

Because the devices are small, easy to use and wireless, they can be adapted for use in doctor’s surgeries, pharmacies, and even the home. OJ-Bio is now in commercial partnership with companies in the USA, Asia and Europe that are developing the technology for a variety of applications.

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