News - 28 November 2013

Pioneering test kit developed in Nottingham saves lives

A pioneering UK test kit developed by an ambitious Nottingham bio-tech business could lead to lives being saved worldwide among patients at risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Platelet Solutions Ltd was formed in 2011 and has benefited from £25,000 funding from Nottingham Technology Grant Fund (N’Tech), which is a key part of the city’s bold Growth Plan.  N’Tech is part of the £50 million Nottingham Prospectus, the city’s package to attract further investment to boost Nottingham’s economy; grants are funded solely through the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF).

So far, 22 successful applications across the digital content, life sciences and clean technology sectors has seen N’Tech grants awarded to the value of £1.797million.

The business, based at Queen’s Medical Centre’s Cardiovascular Medicine Unit, has identified a system – in a palm-sized box – which identifies whether medicines that reduce blood clots are actually achieving the health benefits they are prescribed for.

The company has also gained the support of a £100,000 University of Nottingham loan which, along with the N’Tech grant, will help the business roll out the test kit to health professionals.

Founder and company director Professor Stan Heptinstall envisages the Platelet Solutions system being rolled out initially to the private health care sector.

A world authority in his field and editor-in-chief of the international journal Platelets, Prof Heptinstall has been writing papers and researching the subject since 1972.  He said: “The University and N’Tech has provided us with the backing we need to move forward because they can see the eventual end product and end results for patients.

“In five to 10 years time I would hope to see the testing kit available in GP surgeries, health centres and for home visits as part of the NHS.  It ensures that drugs can be targeted properly at patients, it will save money and it will save lives.”

The system means money could be saved in ensuring the correct drugs – and potentially the ones which offer best value – are correctly targeted to meet the differing needs of patients.

Prof Stan Heptinstall and Cllr Nick McDonald

Prof Stan Heptinstall (left) and Cllr Nick McDonald

Prof Heptinstall said drugs commonly used to reduce blood clots are antiplatelet agents – but not all the drugs are effective in all people at risk of conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and thrombosis.  There is currently no easily accessible test to make sure that the medical experts can identify which drug is the best possible for them.                                                             

The test kit devised by Platelet Solutions Ltd is a potential lifesaver because it identifies certain drugs which do not work for certain people. Clearance from the regulatory authorities to go to market is due in around three months.

Prof Heptinstall pointed towards the use of the common drug clopidogrel which he says is currently prescribed to 250,000 people in the UK, when research shows it is only effective in 60 per cent of users.

The decision to prescribe it so widely is taken because research shows that among the patients who do benefit, it slashes the number of medical emergencies.   However, in the remaining 40 per cent of people it is ineffective and they are therefore, in essence, going without treatment.

Prof Heptinstall said the kit could have worldwide implications because there is, to his knowledge, no comparably simple test system available.  The Platelet testing kit comes in a six inch by four inch box with the cost currently set to be rolled out at between £30 to £50.

The company currently employs one person, is taking on another scientist and an administration assistant following the N’Tech grant.

Dr Susan Huxtable, the University of Nottingham’s, Director of Intellectual Property, said Platelets’ work was “A great example of how it is possible to take exciting early stage technology from the University and transform it into a product or service which has the potential to have significant societal and economic impact.”

She said: “We always welcome the opportunity to meet with people who are interested in working with or investing in our spin-out businesses or licensing and developing the many exciting new ideas arising from the University’s research base.”

Nottingham City Council has secured £10 million from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund for N’Tech grants to help fast track the development plans of businesses based in the city.  The funding can provide grants of £20,000, up to £1 million per successful company to support business growth and expansion.

Councillor Nick McDonald, Portfolio Holder for Jobs and Growth for Nottingham City Council added said: “We are delighted to be able to make this award to Platelet Solutions. Nottingham has a well-deserved historical reputation for discovery and innovation in the life sciences and through supporting companies like this, we’re developing important clusters of expertise based in the city. The applications from research at our award-winning Universities are endless, and they’re highly proficient at working with business to make those ideas a commercial reality, as Platelet Solutions shows. Life science is a key sector for our city and we watch the development of companies like this eagerly as they make waves in the scientific community and in practical healthcare.”

Geared towards the growing life science, digital content and clean technology sectors, the N’Tech fund is run by Nottingham City Council and was launched on April 1 this year. The programme is focused on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the greater Nottingham area to support business growth and expansion. 

Source: Nottingham City Council

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