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New R&D collaborations to accelerate healthcare diagnostics

Earlier this week we were delighted to announce the launch of nine match-funded research projects made possible through MedCity’s Collaborate to Innovate: London Diagnostics programme. Now at the beginning of their 12-month journey, each project team will work to develop diagnostics tools and technologies capable of transforming outcomes for diseases adversely impacting diverse patient populations. Here we introduce each project, the partners involved, and their objectives.

Nine London-based diagnostic healthcare SMEs, developing the next generation of screening tests and technologies to detect some of the UK’s most debilitating diseases, have been partnered with world-leading experts in academia and industry through our Collaborate to Innovate programme. The programme helps to overcome the challenges that SMEs have in finding the right clinical, research and commercial partners to collaborate on diagnostic development, and the funding available at the right time to progress their technologies.

Each SME has been matched with leading specialists in diagnostics R&D, clinical translation and commercialisation to create a joint research project, supported by up to £100,000 per project, including up to £50,000 from LEAP.

The nine projects are tackling detection of:

Pancreatic cancer

BioMavericks with University College London (UCL) are working to develop novel biomarkers for detection of early-stage pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer renders a great challenge in early diagnosis due to the lack of validated and specific screening tests for asymptomatic patients. BioMavericks leverage the power of single-cell analysis to identify immunological markers and patterns in peripheral blood, critical for pancreatic cancer progression at each stage. The partnership will enable the company to draw on UCL’s decades of experience in liquid biopsy and cancer immunology, bridging the gap between preclinical research and data analytics, and presenting a comprehensive profile of early pancreatic cancer for accurate diagnosis.

Project leads:

  • BioMavericks: Andrew Guo
  • Principal Investigators, UCL: Stephen Pereira & Pilar Acedo

Graft-versus-host disease

Curenetics with Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) are focusing on graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), which affects as many as 50% of blood cancer patients who undergo life-saving allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), potentially leading to recurrent infection, graft failure and death. Curenetics is developing an algorithm to predict incidents of graft-versus-host disease for post-surgery cancer patients, and through this collaboration will have access to QMUL’s Barts Cancer Institute’s database, allowing access to a large data field that will aid the development of precision GvHD biomarkers.

Project leads:

  • Curenetics: Sola Adeleke
  • Principal Investigator, QMUL: Jeff Davies

Alzheimer’s and other dementias

Intelligent Lab on Fiber (iLoF) with mentorship from Roche Diagnostics are testing and refining an optical blood-based differential test for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and other dementias. This minimally invasive and low-cost diagnostic is an alternative to current diagnostic methods that are invasive, expensive and inconclusive. Over the 12 months, the team intends to: validate and refine iLoF algorithms; improve understanding of the molecular components underpinning the AD optical fingerprint; and prepare for market entry by understanding the care pathway for AD/dementia, design real-world evidence generation for product certification and determine route-to-market strategy.

Project leads:

  • ILoF: Mehak Mumtaz
  • Partner Lead, Roche Diagnostics UK: Gerard Harkin

Eye (macular) disease

Macusoft with Guy’s & St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are using artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technologies to standardise the use of intravitreal treatments for the most common macular diseases. This project seeks to validate the design and implementation of Maucsoft AI Clinical Decision Support Software (called MacuSense) to hold and analyse data from patients of diabetic macular oedema, retinal vein occlusion and age-related macular degeneration. The project will build on previous proof-of-concept testing to validate MacuSense within a real-world clinical setting with retrospective and prospective data.

Project leads:

  • Macusoft: Nilkunj Dodhia
  • Principal Investigator, Guys & St Thomas’ Trust: Nigel Davies with Rosina Zakri

Cardiovascular disease

MultiplAI Health with QMUL are developing diverse risk profiles in training an AI risk detection platform for cardiovascular disease. In particular the team is addressing the doubled prevalence of coronary heart disease in South-Asian vs. European patient populations. The project will combine deep RNA gene sequencing and AI in developing a polygenic risk score for cardiovascular disease with optimal performance for South-Asian patients – thus enhancing the accuracy of disease prediction in a larger fraction of the at-risk population.

Project leads:

  • MultiplAI Health: Santiago Miriuka
  • Principal Investigators, QMUL: Prof Panos Deloukas & Dr Stavroula Kanoni

Liver cancer

Mursla, partnered with Roche Diagnostics Ltd, are developing a blood test that can detect early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) more effectively than the current standard of care. First-generation liquid biopsy tests measure circulating tumor DNA with low positive predictive value (PPV) for early-stage cancer detection, which Mursla intends to improve with its novel ExoPheno™ platform. The main objective of the collaboration is to confirm the relevance of novel HCC biomarkers for a larger study demonstrating high clinical performance in a more tailored cohort. Roche Diagnostics Ltd will support Mursla by sharing its expertise and best practice in evidence generation, scaling up and market access.

Project leads:

  • Mursla: Pierre Arsene
  • Partner Lead, Roche Diagnostics UK: Gerard Harkin

Kidney cancer

Pear Bio with UCL will conduct the PEAR-TREE project to develop a diagnostic test that helps oncologists identify potential treatment options for cancer patients. The project’s aims include: recruiting 20 kidney cancer patients to provide tumour and blood samples; testing approved kidney cancer therapies; determining dosage of each treatment option; and planning future studies using Pear Bio tests to guide treatment decisions for patients with advanced kidney cancer. The goal is to improve treatment response rates. The project will leverage an existing precision medicine platform developed by Pear Bio, and UCL’s research capability in kidney cancer.

Project leads:

  • Pear Bio: Duleek Ranatunga
  • Principal Investigator, UCL: Maxine Tran

Coronavirus (SARS-Cov2)

Vatic Health with King’s College London (KCL) will lead a study aiming to establish new principles in the rapid diagnostics space by introducing the concept of a true infectivity test, which only identifies a virus when it is active. There is currently no means of achieving this in a point-of-care or lab setting, with scientists currently having to work with imperfect measures such as viral load or cell culture experiments, which can often be challenging and inconclusive. The project will test the range and accuracy of a next-generation, true infectivity test for SARS-Cov2, to inform optimisation prior to real world testing and use.

Project leads:

  • Vatic Health: Alex Sheppard
  • Principal Investigator, KCL: Dr Rocio Martinez-Nunez

Paediatric cancer

Vesynta with NIHR London In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative (Imperial College London) will collaborate to address some of the company’s key health economic research challenges. These include insights into the current cost of dosing methodologies in paediatric cancer, the budget impact of introducing Vesynta’s technology, determining effective pricing for their innovation, and an economic evaluation of Vesynta’s technology. This research will support the economic viability of the product to help expedite the uptake of the in-vitro diagnostic and software solution. Effective implementation of Vesynta’s technology will enhance the process of drug monitoring for both caregivers and patients, especially for children fighting cancer and those caring for them.

Project leads:

  • Vesynta: Jugal Suthar
  • Principal Investigator, NIHR LIVD Co-operative, Imperial College London: Dr Melody Ni

Find out more

In coming months we look forward to profiling each of the research collaborations in detail and reporting on project milestones achieved over the 12 month duration. We also welcome expressions of interest from companies, academic institutions, industry, research charities and others who would like to explore participation in future Collaborate to Innovate programmes, which to date have spanned broad life sciences, advanced therapies, and stroke. Please email


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