University spin-out set to revolutionise UTI diagnostics

The PhenUTest management team
X The Business Desk

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The University of Liverpool has formed a new spin-out company, PhenUtest Diagnostics, to take forward state-of-the-art medical device technology that aims to revolutionise the diagnosis of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).

Every year more than 100 million people are diagnosed with UTIs. One in two women encounters it at some point in their life, making it a major problem worldwide. The infections are responsible for in excess of 22% of the UK’s antibiotic prescriptions.

The current UTI testing procedure is slow, involving samples being sent to a pathological lab, taking up to 72 hours for results to come back.

Moreover, the mis-prescribing of antibiotics, especially in UTIs, leads to increased levels of antimicrobial-resistance (AMR), which is estimated to cost the global economy more than $100 trillion by 2015. Annually, more than 50,000 people die from AMR infections in Europe and the US.

PhenUtest is commercialising technology created at the university, enabling a 30-minute sample to diagnosis for antimicrobial susceptibility test for UTI suspected samples.

This will ensure that the patient gets the correct antibiotic in their first GP visit.

The new diagnostic tests are rapid, accurate and a more cost effective way to diagnose UTIs. This will not only save health services across the world millions of pounds, but will also reduce the growth of AMR.

PhenUTest has recently been awarded a total of £257,322 via Innovate UK through the Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) ‘follow on funding’ competition, alongside £150,000 investment from the university’s Enterprise Investment Fund. These schemes are designed for research teams with commercially-promising ideas to de-risk technologies, ‘get out of the lab’ and validate their ideas in the marketplace.

PhenUtest’s management team is headed up by Guy Reynolds, chief executive, and comprises: Will Wijnberg, chief operating officer; Prof Doug Kell and Dr Srijan Jindal, from the university’s Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology (ISMIB); Dr Kai Hoettges, from the university’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics; and Dr Vanya Gant, head of Microbiology at University College Hospital, who is a member of the advisory board. Phenutest’s technology was initially developed as part of Srijan Jindal’s PhD project supervised by Prof Kell, and has been in development for five years to date.

Dr Srijan Jindal said: “We have a wonderful opportunity to translate a proven method from the laboratory to a clinical setting, which will have meaningful patient benefits and contribute toward the fight against AMR. In doing so we will support the life sciences ecosystem in Liverpool and become a centre of excellence for microbial diagnostics with significant links to the university.

“We expect to build expertise which will be world leading and once our device is available we expect to gather unparalleled insight into the problem of AMR.”

He added: “None of this would have been possible without the ongoing support of the University of Liverpool and the culture of excellence which has supported this project to date.”

Will Wihnberg said: “From a purely business perspective, the market opportunity is significant. The existing method is from the 19th century and all the feedback we have had from clinicians is strongly positive, our method should disrupt and improve this market with benefits for all stakeholders.”

Emma Nolan, head of IP commercialisation, said: “The university is known for its world class research in AMR and associated disciplines and PhenUTest is an excellent example of how leading academic research can be translated into commercial ventures, contributing to economic growth and creating impact.”

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