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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R00398X/1
Title: MicroTotal Pre Analytical Systems (MTPAS): Near-patient Approach to the Preparation of Circulating Biomarkers for Next-Generation Sensing
Principal Investigator: Kersaudy-Kerhoas, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Multiplicom NV The Electrospinning Company University of Birmingham
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 February 2018 Ends: 31 July 2023 Value (£): 964,969
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Sep 2017 Healthcare Technologies Challenge Awards 2 Interviews (Panel B) September 2017 Announced
28 Jun 2017 Healthcare Technologies Challenge Awards 28 June 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Increased demand on blood sampling requirements has arisen from prolong lifespan and ageing populations. The use of circulating cell-free nucleic acids (cfNAs) as biomarkers for cancer, non-invasive prenatal testing, organ transplant monitoring and more, has grown in popularity since it is non-invasive (simple blood draw) and easily repeated, allowing the possibility to rapidly establish a diagnosis, a prognosis and even used for theranostic applications. So called "liquid biopsies" and cfDNA analysis could for example allow the fourteen millions of cancer patients diagnosed globally each year to access earlier diagnosis and optimised treatments.

However, despite numerous translational research programs the detection of cfNA is not currently implemented clinically in daily practice. Several reasons have been emerged for this, including (i) the difficulty in controlling the different biological, environmental and logistic parameters from blood sampling to the analysis of biomarkers (ii) the cost of the currently available techniques, which limit accessibility (iii) the turn-around time needed to be useful for patients and clinicians. Current sample preparation solutions are multi-step which can introduce variations and lead to an erroneous diagnosis. Additionally these solutions are time consuming, not amenable to near-patient extraction following blood draw, and require highly trained technicians. The optimisation of the extraction of cell-free circulating markers is key to their translation from the research setting to clinical deployment. The lack of engineering solutions to address the specificities of circulating cell-free nucleic acid extraction, underpins this programme. To meet the requirements of future healthcare industry, the work proposed will integrate novel advanced materials such as electrospun fibres, packaged with on-chip reagents in a microfluidic cartridge to extract cfNAs from blood. Deployed near-patient, this technology will protect the biomarkers from enzymatic degradation and enrich them against the rest of the nucleic acids present in the sample, allowing an unparalleled standardisation and instant preservation of the true disease state until analysis.

The solution proposed involves the use of single-use cartridges, and could generate a significant amount of additional medical waste if implemented. Therefore this programme has a unique sustainable manufacturing component, looking into the use of a naturally-derived plastic (poly-lactic acid) to prototype and manufacture low carbon footprint, disposable, microfluidic cartridges, potential applicable to a large range of point-of-care devices.

The solutions developed in this programme have the potential to significantly reduce the overall cost of sample preparation in the field of circulating biomarkers, as well as increasing the robustness and reliability of a range of biomarkers with direct application in clinical diagnostic and biomarker and drug discovery, in a sustainable fashion. Hand-in-hand with novel sensing solutions, this work has the potential to increase life quality from earlier, quicker diagnosis through optimised treatment and better care management. With the global liquid biopsy market forecasts to reach $4.5 billion by 2020, front-end sample preparation constitutes an important area for the UK economy.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk