Innovative device could revolutionise how we diagnose diseases

An innovative device could revolutionise the way we diagnose diseases, such as the newly emerged strain of coronavirus, COVID-19.

To date, systems that diagnose from breath sampling have not proven to be reliable enough due to contamination, sample loss and variability issues.

This pioneering invention resolves reliability issues so data collected closely resembles results from lung samples taken surgically. In future the technology could be used in the diagnosis of lung diseases as well as other health issues such as diabetes, cancers, liver problems, brain and ageing diseases.

Dr Sterghios Moschos, Associate Professor at Northumbria University explains: “Our ambition is to reduce the need for bloodletting for diagnosis in its broadest sense. The research evidence that shows this is possible is well established, what is missing is the standardised and reliable approach to do so outside the research lab: in pharmacies, GP surgeries or the back of an ambulance, for example.”

“In the case of Coronavirus, temperature monitoring in airports is not sufficient. The World Health Organisation currently recommends testing nasal swabs, oral swabs and swabs from inside the lungs to avoid missing the infection. That’s why it’s vital we develop non-invasive, quick and cost-effective tests for diagnosis and screening.”

In future the technology could be used in the diagnosis of lung diseases as well as other health issues such as diabetes, cancers, liver problems, brain and ageing diseases. The impacts are wide-ranging, from the health benefits of improving reliability of testing in cases such as COVID-19, to the economic benefits of creating jobs and ultimately forming a spin-out company.

“Our pre-incorporation funding, along with a range of other support, helps academics turn their worldclass research into real world impact. This device does exactly that – with our support it’s developing from an idea, to a prototype, to a business that will impact healthcare around the world, as well as increasing R&D expenditure and creating jobs here in the North East,” said Dr Tim Hammond, Project Lead for Northern Accelerator.

Support Recieved From Northern Accelerator

Northumbria University secured pre-incorporation funding for the next stage of product and business development of the technology.

The funding made it possible to bring together a team to create a prototype of the device, with Northumbria graduate Saqib Ali, appointed as a Design Engineer, carrying out rapid prototyping of the device using 3D printers.

Dr Moschos’ also attended the Future Founders course as part of the Ideas Impact Hub, giving academics the knowledge, understanding and commercial skills to establish successful spin-out enterprises or licensing opportunities.

And, working with Northern Accelerator-funded technology transfer professionals at Northumbria University, the team has also benefited from Executives into Business support to recruit a management team.

Going from Strength to Strength

With support from Northumbria University’s IP & Commercialisation Managers, the project is progressing well on its journey from research, to innovation, to future commercialisation.

The team are engineering features of the design to make it easier for clinicians and patients to use and more applicable to large volume production.

Dr Moschos’ team has now recruited a highly experienced management team through Northern Accelerator’s Executives into Business programme and is preparing for future commercialisation.

Find out more about Pulman Bio Med’s breath-collecting device.