27 February 2018

5 Companies Shaking up Point of Care Diagnostics.

CM Life Science By CM Life Science

There aren’t many sectors of industry that have seen as much progress in the last 20 years as molecular diagnostics. Point of care testing has, in some cases, eliminated the need for samples to be sent off to labs, enabling physicians to obtain near-immediate results, facilitating rapid decisions about treatment.

Working in the POC space, I come across exciting new companies virtually every week. Here are 5 that I think are disrupting the space at the moment. 

1. Owlstone Medical

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The Owlstone ReCIVA Breath Sampler

After losing his wife to cancer in 2012, Owlstone CEO Billy Boyle wanted to utilise the breath testing technology he had helped design for military applications in the healthcare sector. The aim? Identifying cancer in the early stages, when it is far easier to treat. Owlstone’s device is geared toward the early detection of lung cancers and has also been used in research for tuberculosis and asthma.

Taking a breath sample through a mask has a range of benefits when compared to regular sample extraction, as it is much easier and less distressing (especially for children) than taking blood or another fluid.

Owlstone’s ultimate aim to is develop their product into a fully functional ‘breathalyzer for disease’, saving billions of dollars and thousands of lives. They hope that their technology will one day be useful in the early detection of a range of cancers as well as infectious and inflammatory diseases.

2. Spartan Bioscience

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The Spartan Cube

Spartan Bioscience may have manufactured the coolest looking device in the space. The Spartan Cube claims to be the world’s smallest molecular diagnostics device, and with its sleek steel design it looks the part too.

The cube can be used for a range of diagnostic tests but a particularly interesting area has been their research into the detection of Legionnaires Disease. In the USA alone, up to 18,000 people are hospitalised with Legionnaire’s disease – a severe form of pneumonia – with a 10% mortality rate every year.

Legionella bacteria can reach outbreak levels extremely quickly, especially in confined spaces like hospitals, hotels or shopping malls and before Spartan’s research, the tests required to detect the bacteria could take anywhere up to 14 days. Now with the Spartan Cube technology building managers can identify the bacteria in just 45 minutes, with no technical training.

Spartan have won a host of awards for their innovation, and with reduction in turnaround times like that for legionella, it’s easy to see why. 

3. Biosensia

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The Biosensia Rapiplex System

Biosensia haven’t commercialised their POC diagnostic technology yet, but they’re gaining a lot of attention for the research they’re doing into a variety of different conditions. A particularly interesting area they’ve been making real progress in has been research into neurodegenerative disease and traumatic brain injuries (TRIs).

Biosensia’s Rapiplex technology is capable of producing both qualitative and quantitative lab – quality test results. Their innovative multiplex assay technology measures up to 24 analytes at once – far surpassing their closest competitor.

CEO Niamh O’Luanaigh is under no illusions as to what the future could hold for their innovative system. She’s been quoted as saying ‘in reality (Biosensia) are probably of most interest to any of the bigger companies as a potential acquisition.’

Time will tell if the likes of Roche, Siemens or Abbott have got their eye on them to expand their POC portfolios. 

4. MBio Diagnostics

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MBio's portable diagnostic system

MBio Diagnostics claim that their Lightdeck technology heralds a ‘new era in on the spot testing’. Their sophisticated and versatile (it can be used in food testing too) technology utilises a unique fluorescence assay illumination imaging approach.

They’ve worked all over the world with a variety of conditions, including TB in Peru and Vietnam, HIV in Mozambique and malaria in Kenya. The simple test needs just one drop of blood in the device to detect over 100 different biomarkers.

MBio are right on the front line of battling infectious disease in developing nations. My colleague Paul touched on the phenomenal progress POC in the infectious disease space is making – you can read about that here.

5. DNA Electronics

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The DNA Electronics LiDia POC system

Receiving more than $50M in funding, DNA Electronics have already got a lot of people talking in the point of care space. Their approach is to integrate highly sophisticated NGS technology into a POC device for rapid diagnostic testing applications.

They’ve managed to reduce timeframes from days to hours when it comes to diagnoses. They’re currently conducting research into combatting antimicrobial resistance and influenza – two growing global healthcare problems, and with their unparalleled financial backing, the potential here is huge. 

In Conclusion

These five companies all represent the very latest in innovation, bringing molecular diagnostics to the field or hospital bed more easily than ever before. By eliminating the need for specialist labs and slashing timescales, incredible progress is being made.


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