Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Seed funding for Wiltshire lab in Covid fight

Porton Science Park


Medical diagnostics company Presymptom Health has secured £200,000 of seed funding to develop a test that can predict whether coronavirus patients will develop sepsis before symptoms appear.

The funding has come from Ploughshare Innovations, the technology transfer office for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). Both companies are based at Wiltshire Council's Porton Science Park near Salisbury.

Scientists at Dstl have been carrying out research on sepsis for 10 years. They say the test will be able to determine whether a patient will develop sepsis up to three days before symptoms appear, providing valuable extra time to deliver the optimal treatment to improve patient recovery rates and also reduce treatment costs.

Sepsis has been linked to a number of Covid-19 fatalities. A recent Lancet article which analysed the outbreak in Wuhan, China found that sepsis was the most frequently observed complication and that all Wuhan patients who died as a result of Covid-19 by February 2020 had sepsis.

The first phase for developing the prototype diagnostic test will last six months. This will include trials with coronavirus patients and testing samples from a Dstl biobank. Up to 300 patients are expected to be involved in the trial, with a further 200 samples from the biobank being used to establish the test’s effectiveness.

Presymptom Health will recruit a core external team from industry who will provide general management, clinical project management, regulatory and quality assurance and key R&D diagnostic development skills. The test prototype itself will be developed by expert technicians.

Presymptom Health’s CEO, Iain Miller, said: “This is a significant step to help in the fight against coronavirus. Presymptom Health develops new tests to determine the presence of diseases in patients – before they show symptoms.

“Having the opportunity to leverage Dstl’s ground-breaking work and apply this sepsis technology to aid clinicians dealing with the pandemic is deeply important to us. We are confident this technology will provide vital and life-saving information when it is most needed.”

Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, Ploughshare’s CEO, said: “It is unusual for Ploughshare to make investments such as this. However, given how much potential this technology has we saw the value in accelerating its development.

“Beyond Covid-19, the test will have the potential to help with the treatment of the 49 million people worldwide affected by sepsis every year, and to also prepare us for future pandemics.”

Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of Dstl, where the original development work was conducted, said: “The work we do at Dstl is fundamental to the defence and security of the UK and we are constantly seeking ways in which our technologies can be applied to deliver impact to the wider society.

“Here, we have a unique concept that has the potential to improve the lives of thousands and Dstl is proud to be the science behind this novel development.”