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Scientists in the UK have developed a fingerprick test that can detect proteins associated with diseases ranging from chronic coronavirus to Alzheimer’s in 10 minutes or less.

Andrew Shaw, chief executive of Attomarker, a spin-off from the University of Exeter, said at the UK Science Festival in Exeter that the new testing device was “revolutionizing the world of diagnostics and big data.” potential”.

The technology gave clinical results for the first time this year, diagnosing long-term COVID-19 through the presence of six antibodies that indicate the presence of the Sars-Cov-2 virus in patients.

It has also been developed to detect “biomarker” proteins associated with female fertility, food allergies, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, and to combat antimicrobial resistance by differentiating between bacterial and viral infections.

Currently, the technology runs on a benchtop laboratory instrument and can produce results in seven to 10 minutes. But next year Attomarker is expected to launch a handheld device with a diagnostic box that tethers to a cell phone.

The stark similarities between Attomarker and Theranos, the U.S. blood-testing fraud company founded by Elizabeth Holmes, “come up all the time when I talk to investors,” Shaw said. The difference is that we have a viable technology and demonstrated it, which they’ve never done before.”

Funding sizes also vary, he added. While Theranos has invested and lost more than $700 million, Attomarker has raised £4.5 million since 2017 and hopes to raise another £3 million by the end of 2023. A larger Series A round of financing will take place over the next two years.

Andrew Shaw, CEO and Founder, Attomarker © Steve Haywood

Attomarker’s technology works with gold nanoparticles printed on an array of sensor spots. The nanoparticles at each spot are processed to bind to specific proteins, and the array can scan for up to 20 biomarkers from a 0.01 milliliter blood sample. In comparison, a routine hospital blood test requires a 30ml sample.

When the spots are illuminated from below as blood flows through the array, the nanoparticles scatter the light in a pattern that indicates the amount of biomarkers attached to the surface.

While developing several applications, Shaw picked three that he believed had great business potential.

One of the devices, capable of detecting nine different biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease, including five variants of the tau protein and two amyloid-beta proteins, will launch next year.

The other is an “infection chip” that can tell whether an infection with nonspecific symptoms is caused by a bacterium that can be treated with antibiotics, or a virus that does not respond to antibiotics. The third is capable of detecting hormones associated with fertility and menopause.

Shaw said the mobile device could cost around £300, with each test array or chip costing between £10 and £20. “The route to market will be private practice first and then the NHS,” he said.


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