1.5m funding boost for UofG diagnostics spinout

A University of Glasgow spinout which is bringing to market a fast, affordable and efficient new way to diagnose diseases has received a major funding boost.

Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, has announced a 1.5m grant in support of SAW Dx, an emerging biological sample analysis and point of care diagnostic company founded by University of Glasgow biomedical engineers.

The grant, which requires a matching subcomponent of 30% from the private sector, will support the development of the company’s low-cost sample preparation system over the next two years.

SAW Dx is built on unique acoustic-flow technology developed at the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering. Samples of patients’ blood, swabs or urine are placed on a disposable chip. The interaction between the sound waves and the chip enables the release of DNA and its amplification, enabling test results in as little as 10 minutes.

The new award follows the company’s recent successful completion of a 1.1M award from the UK Government’s Biomedical Catalyst fund directed towards development of the company’s technology for infectious disease diagnostics.

Dr Julien Reboud is co-founder and one of the inventors of SAW Dx. Dr Reboud said: “This new award will help the company secure its foothold in the growing point of care diagnostic market, whilst also opening up other potential research applications.

“Point of care testing provides near-immediate results, which allows the clinician to optimize treatment decisions while the patient is still in the clinic, rather than prescribing unnecessary antibiotics, which is often the case today”.

Support from Innovate UK will serve as an important component of a seed financing round which SAW Dx is currently raising, providing important significant de-risking and investment leverage to private investors.

SAW Dx is targeting several markets for its initial product launches, which it plans to serve in collaboration with major corporate partners. Initial target markets include sexual health screening, respiratory health management and hospital-acquired infections.

There are over 200 million sexually-transmitted infections annually in major markets, and recent analyses demonstrate the potential for point-of-care testing to reduce time to cure from 4 to 2 days.

In the respiratory health context, SAW is developing rapid tests for flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and strep A, which collectively affect 750 million people each year and are associated with expensive in-patient isolation for vulnerable patients (flu) and/or severe over-prescription of antibiotics (Strep A).

In the Hospital Acquired Infections context, SAW Dx technology has the potential to better direct antibiotic resources, thereby reducing the emergence of drug-resistant strains which kill 700,000 patients eachyear in developed markets.

The SAW Dx point of care platform will compete in a broader global molecular diagnostic market context estimated to reach $12.5 Billion by 2024.

Professor Jon Cooper, director and academic founder of SAW Dx, said: “We’re extremely pleased to have won additional support from Innovate UK. Initial clinical tests of early prototypes of SAW Dx with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde have produced excellent results.

“We’re particularly excited to offer a technology with the potential to transform infectious disease care, whilst contributing to enhanced antimicrobial stewardship. For example, we note that recent publications in the Sexual Health field suggest the potential for point-of-care testing to reduce unnecessary prescriptions by an order of magnitude.”

The new Innovate UK award is timely, coming on the back of the updated antimicrobial resistance (AMR) strategy released on January 24, outlining the UK Government’s plan to tackle AMR over the next 5 and 20 years - in which the development of, and access to, effective diagnostics were key objectives.

In addition to support from Innovate UK, SAW Dx successfully closed a seed investment round in 2017 with IP Group, a developer of intellectual property-based businesses, and the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise.

The company is currently seeking additional investment. In early 2018, the company recruited Dr. Iain Miller, who brings extensive diagnostic industry experience, as CEO. Iain is leading the current fundraising round.

Prof Jon Cooper - research profile

Dr Julien Reboud - research profile

SAW Dx website

School of Engineering

Innovate UK