Hand-held device can diagnose flu virus strains in minutes

13 November 2012

Newcastle-based OJ-Bio has secured funds from the UK Biomedical Catalyst programme further develop a device for the rapid, simple and low cost diagnosis of flu and other viruses.
The new technology combines specialist bio-sensor materials with advanced electronics in a small hand-held device for the accurate detection of flu and other respiratory conditions from patient supplied samples.

Importantly, the device can be used at the patient’s bed side or other point of care, such as a GP surgery or pharmacy, with the results being available within minutes and without samples being sent for laboratory analysis.

Drawing showing how the diagnostic device could be used
Drawing showing the device connected to a mobile phone for displaying results

For the last three years OJ-Bio has worked with the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) to successfully develop and test the new biosensor device. This has proven its ability to successfully detect three potent respiratory viruses much more quickly than current methods. These incude influenza A and B viruses, common flu strains previously linked to some major epidemics, and Respiratory Synctyial Virus (RSV), a major cause of coughs and chest infections.

The latest funding approval will enable the company to build on its existing work by developing lab-based prototypes into a fully functional pilot device capable of carrying out large scale clinical trials.

Dale Athey, chief executive of OJ-Bio, said: “This award will enable us to accelerate the development of our new product which we believe has significant market potential.

“Flu viruses cause misery for millions of people each year and early diagnosis is vital. Drugs are only effective in the first few days after symptoms appear and current tests which involve laboratory analysis of samples simply aren’t fast enough.

“Our new device provides a low cost test that dramatically improves the speed of diagnosis and treatment that should hit the disease at source and limit its ability to spread.”

Dale Athey, holding a tray of biosensors
OJ-BiO CEO Dale Athey holds a tray of biosensors

OJ-Bio is a joint venture between the Newcastle-based biotechnology company Orla Protein Technologies Ltd. and the Japan Radio Company (JRC). Orla provides the specialist biosensor materials that are combined with JRC’s advanced electronics capability to create the new ‘biochip’ technology platform.

The biochip allows the diagnostic device to analyse samples from the patient, with the results being displayed on a complementary hand held reading device such as a mobile phone. JRC’s expertise in wireless technology also means that the detection devices can be wireless enabled allowing connectivity to healthcare networks.

OJ-Bio will now embark on a programme that will involve new product design work and multi channel biochip development, alongside further investigation into the results reader and associated software needs.

This work will involve extensive input from doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff and will result in the development of a fully working device that can be used in extensive clinical trials.

OJ-Bio is already taking an international lead in the development of mass manufactured bio detection devices. The work on developing an effective flu diagnosis device also has the potential to be adapted for other infectious diseases.


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