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The University of Southampton
Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

Research started by NAMRIP leads to large grants and spin-out company

Published: 9 February 2023
Laser manufacture of LFT
Laser manufacture of the paper-based Lateral Flow Test with spatially shaped flow paths

In early 2015, the team led by Dr Sones and Prof. Eason received a Pump Priming Award (amounting to a value of £11,171) from NAMRIP for their research titled, 'Enabling testing of Antimicrobial Resistance to antibiotics via laser-patterned paper-platforms'.

This was in the first round of NAMRIP pump-priming funds, which were competitively awarded, and the Chair of the panel, Professor Leighton said “The potential of this research was clear to us all, and furthermore, the team were clearly people who would put a lot into NAMRIP through our public Engagement work, and our interests in Low/Middle Income countries."

One of the co-inventors, Professor Collin Sones, said "The funding from NAMRIP was crucial, in terms of the timing it was received, as the team had just started to develop our laser-based technology”. Co-inventor Professor Rob Eason added: “The NAMRIP support kick-started a journey that would allow the creation of fluidics-based diagnostics on low-cost, paper and paper-like porous platforms, that we hope will lead to affordable and rapid point-of-care testing".

The NAMRIP funding allowed the team to evaluate and ascertain the feasibility of their laser-based methodology, which led to follow-on funding for this transformative research.

In the years since NAMRIP funding kick-started the project, this novel and disruptive research [1] from the two NAMRIP researchers and their team members (notably Dr Ioannis Katis and Dr Peijun He) has been widely acknowledged and endorsed both by academia and industry. This is reflected through 4 granted patents, and 4 EPSRC funded grants amounting to ~£2.5M, and the formation of a spin-out company, Highfield Diagnostics.

The technology was highlighted as 'an upcoming technology that could provide transformative changes to the lateral flow test (LFT) manufacturing industry' at industry-led workshops organised by leading LFT manufacturers, Scienion and Biodot (workshops where the team gave 3 invited talks).

The work is raising increasing interest from both clinical professionals who want a diagnostic test for their clinical needs, and from manufacturers of rapid diagnostic test strips who are interested in exploiting this IP for manufacture/improvements of branded off-the-shelf tests.

This work was showcased in early 2020 when the team formed part of a NAMRIP delegation to Parliament. This initiative grew from an address by Professor Leighton to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, which in turn led to NAMRIP members being interviewed for a Parliamentary briefing entitled 'Reservoirs of Antimicrobial Resistance' (POSTnote 595) and an article by Professor Leighton on NAMRIP in the Science in Parliament Journal. As a result of this initiative, in February 2020 a delegation from NAMRIP was invited to Parliament to showcase a number of NAMRIP projects, which Professor Sones describes as 'one of the major highlights of the work was the development of tests for early detection of infections caused by the dangerously rising number drug resistant pathogens. This work was showcased in early 2020 at the UK Parliament AMR Reception, Superbugs, to appraise UK Parliament and the Chief Medical Officer'.

This event was just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which put a stop to such gatherings. Several of the NAMRIP teams who diverted their research to support the effort against the pandemic (detailed in NAMRIP’s anti-COVID web pages and in an invited article written by Professor Leighton for the National Health Executive NHE Magazine). The LFT team were no exception, and as they looked at how their technology might support efforts to tackle the pandemic, they made an important breakthrough via the development of low-cost, user-friendly lateral flow diagnostic test for rapid detection of the COVID-19 pathogen within the comforts home testing. The work was reported in the newspapers, radio and television.

Highfield Diagnostics was formed in April 2021.

The image below show a finished laser-patterned LFT with six channels to simultaneously multiple disease-specific biomarkers.

A finished laser-patterned LFT with six channels
A finished laser-patterned LFT with six channels
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