EPSRC IRC Proteus - Multiplexed 'Touch and Tell' Optical Molecular Sensing and Imaging - Lifetime and Beyond

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry

Abstract

The EPSRC IRC Proteus is made up of a group of world-leading scientists, engineers and clinicians. Interdisciplinarity is at our heart - we work across traditional boundaries linking together disciplines such as optical physics, chemical biology, biology and engineering to name but a few. The ambition and desire is to translate technologies to help patients - empowering clinicians to "see disease" in front of their eyes at the bedside and help them to make the right decisions and give the right treatments at the right time.

This highly interdisciplinary collaboration driven by clinical need and pull, has led to the design, fabrication and testing in patients of a number of world-leading bedside-based technology platforms. Our technology platform combines advanced fibre optic technology (that can be readily be passed into the lung of patients) and highly sensitive detectors in association with highly sensitive fluorescent chemical reagents to diagnose disease. This allows clinicians to "view" inside the lung to detect bacteria or aberrant disease signatures of disease.

Clinical pull: Intensive care unit (ICU) patients suffer high death and disability rates and are responsible for a disproportionate financial burden on the health service (the equivalent of 1% of USA GDP is spent on patients in intensive care). Potentially fatal lung complications are a common problem in ventilated ICU patients and doctors caring for these patients in the ICU face many challenges, often needing to make snap decisions without the information necessary to properly inform those decisions. The new technology platforms being developed by Proteus are helping doctors in the intensive care unit to make rapid and accurate diagnoses of patients, allowing them to direct and inform therapy and ensure patients get the right treatment, at the right time and quickly. Although our technology platforms have a focus at this time on being used in the intensive care unit, it is widely applicable to a wide range of lung conditions and other healthcare situations, such as bowel or pancreatic cancer.

The next steps for the IRC are to take our technology into a new area in which different flavours of light can be used to diagnose disease - using the teams' highly advanced light sensors (that are able to count a single photon). In addition the proposal moves the IRC towards sustainability, creating a legacy from the EPSRC investment - accelerating the pathways to take new technology into patients, while developing commercial opportunities.

In summary the EPSRC IRC Proteus has generated a new cohort of young interdisciplinary scientists trained in physical and biological sciences and engineering that have a full appreciation and practical experience of clinical translational and commercialisation pathways. They will be able to meet the challenges of converting advances in science and engineering into healthcare benefits with the development of a number of cutting-edge bedside technology platforms which will help doctors make rapid and accurate diagnoses. The team, in association with the partner Universities, have also begun to make major strides towards full sustainability of the IRC - making major impacts in the areas of clinical and commercial translation, with significant academic outputs and public engagement activities.

Planned Impact

Our proposed research programme will generate numerous avenues for the realisation of impact:

Research Areas - The research proposed pushes the technologies that we have developed as part of the original IRC into advanced technology readiness. We have for example developed and fabricated three world-leading detectors. They offer enormous power and potential, but took some 3 years to design/test/evaluate with advanced software having to be written to control and utilize their outputs. They are now ready to be exploited to the full.

Clinical Translation: We have developed a regulatory pathway that has allowed us to carry out first in-human studies (both device and probes). Proteus has, to date, delivered into the clinic a device (VersiColour) and three imaging reagents (Bac-One, Bac-Two and Fib-One) - and the team will deliver into the clinic and into patients at least 2 devices, 3 fibres and 2 chemical probes as part of this "next steps funding". As such the stage is now set with multiple new opportunities that can be grasped and exploited and opened up to other groups.

Communication and Outreach - Through public lectures, open meetings and publication in the scientific and lay press we have engaged in public, scientific and commercial disseminations - e.g. The British Science Festival, Family Weekend Event (Swansea) -September 2016 with a Permanent Proteus Exhibit at Glasgow Science Centre now being constructed. Our interdisciplinary programme will continue to provide multiple opportunities for involvement in public engagement and dissemination in which team members will play a variety of active roles.

Patients: Proteus is providing unique opportunities for clinicians to rapidly monitor events deep in the lungs of critically ill patients in 'real time' at the bedside. This will permit rapid point-of-care diagnosis and informed decision-making in intensive care units and patient stratification. We are actively involving patients in our programme to increase impact and involve patients in our research ideas and plans.

NHS: The economic burden of ICU patients is huge. Rapid and incisive bedside diagnosis, particularly of specific infections would lead to stratification of patient care and tailored prescribing patterns, including the use/non-use of expensive and potentially toxic anti-bacterials. Ultimately this would translate into reduced antibiotic use, reduced ventilator dependency and reduced mortality and morbidity with a proportionate economic benefit.

Interdisciplinarity: A central part of our agenda has been to break down traditional 'barriers' between physical and biomedical sciences. The team have benefitted immensely from the interdisciplinary translational thrust of the programme and the cross-fertilisation derived from the 'Hub'. Moreover, the PhD students provided by the Universities have been specifically engaged in cross-disciplinary projects - thus allowing us to train a cadre of scientists who are multi-skilled and equipped to meet the challenges of applying new technologies to healthcare provision in the new era.

Commercial Translation: The UK must reap the dividend of the current "revolution" in physical sciences. Proteus has generated multiple packages of IP whose commercial opportunities are being explored in areas associated with fibre technology, novel chemical probes, image processing and life-time imaging. Proteus is delivering leading-edge interdisciplinary and translational research in exciting and highly translatable areas of photonics, optics, imaging, data analysis and chemistry - driven by a clear "healthcare pull". The enabling activities through our IRC has created a new generation of scientists, engineers and technologists with a translational agenda and mind-set for the benefit of the UK economy. Building on this, Proteus is also leading the establishment of a UK Healthcare Technology Accelerator Facility.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have:
(i). Designed new detectors (imagine super versions of the detectors/cameras that are found in your phone) that allow a type of 3D imaging - with the ability to do this in vivo.
Using these to image cancer in totally new ways - can we detect the edges to allow surgeons to remove the cancerous tissue.
(ii). Built new chemical probes that are able to detect disease (bacteria/cancer etc..). used to detect bacteria in urine for example or on the skills. New molecules that kill bacterial when we shine light on them.
(iii). Designed new optical fibres able to use used in humans to detect/monitor disease.
(iv). Engaged with patients to allow them to help direct our research.
(v). Filed numerous patents in the area.
Exploitation Route The technology could be taken forwards by medical companies, academics (optical physicists, engineers) used by clinicians.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL http://www.proteus.ac.uk
 
Description (i). Spinout in progress. (ii). Huge public engagement activities (see section on this). (iii). Huge advocacy re EPSRC research as applied to healthcare. (iv). Development of early career researchers. (v). Training of skilled researchers for UK PLC
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Accurate, Rapid, Robust and Economical diagnostic technoliogieS for Tuberculosis
Amount € 4,400,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 825931 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2020 
End 12/2022
 
Description Next-Generation Sensing For Human In Vivo Pharmacology- Accelerating Drug Development In Inflammatory Diseases
Amount £1,071,136 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S025987/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 04/2022
 
Description Single Photons - Expanding the Spectrum (SPEXS)
Amount £5,265,567 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S026428/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 09/2024
 
Title - OPTICAL PROBE FOR THROMBIN 
Description OPTICAL PROBE FOR THROMBIN 
IP Reference WO2016151297 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Confidential
 
Title A SENSING STRUCTURE AND METHOD OF FORMING A SENSING STRUCTURE 
Description A SENSING STRUCTURE AND METHOD OF FORMING A SENSING STRUCTURE 
IP Reference WO2017203272 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Confidential
 
Title ENDOSCOPIC IMAGING APPARATUS AND METHOD 
Description ENDOSCOPIC IMAGING APPARATUS AND METHOD 
IP Reference WO2017174998 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Confidentail
 
Title FLUORESCENT POLYBRANCHED PROBES FOR DETECTING BACTERIA AND/OR FUNGI IN VITRO AND IN VIVO 
Description FLUORESCENT POLYBRANCHED PROBES FOR DETECTING BACTERIA AND/OR FUNGI IN VITRO AND IN VIVO 
IP Reference WO2016075484 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Confidential
 
Title FRAME SELECTION IN MEDICAL IMAGE DATA 
Description FRAME SELECTION IN MEDICAL IMAGE DATA 
IP Reference WO2017149310 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Confidential
 
Title FRET MOLECULAR PROBES WITH CLEAVABLE LINKERS FOR DETECTING BACTERIA AND/OR FUNGI IN VITRO AND IN VIVO 
Description FRET MOLECULAR PROBES WITH CLEAVABLE LINKERS FOR DETECTING BACTERIA AND/OR FUNGI IN VITRO AND IN VIVO 
IP Reference WO2016075481 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Confidential
 
Title Molecular probes for detecting gram-negative bacteria in vitro and in vivo 
Description Molecular probes for detecting gram-negative bacteria in vitro and in vivo 
IP Reference WO2016075483 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Confidential
 
Title SERS PROBE COMPRISING A DUAL-CORE OPTICAL FIBER AND A SPACER ONTO WHICH SERS-ACTIVE NANOPARTICLES ARE ATTACHED 
Description SERS PROBE COMPRISING A DUAL-CORE OPTICAL FIBER AND A SPACER ONTO WHICH SERS-ACTIVE NANOPARTICLES ARE ATTACHED 
IP Reference WO2017158331 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Confidential
 
Description AAAS Meeting 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact AAAS Meeting 2019 - Invited to the meeting as a Flagship EPSRC project representing UK science on the main exhibition stage as well as the International Reception.
Feb 2019
Audience: American Academics, Members of Congress, American Industries, RIUK team lead by Sir Mark Walport (CEO) World Media Teams, Global stakeholders (academics, policy makers) students and wider publics
Engagement methods: Proteus Technology Versicolour
Impact: Raised awareness of EPSRC Proteus with UKRI CEO and wider RIUK team. Networked with senior academics, policy makers and US industries. Created new collaborations with industrial partners
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.ukri.org/aaas/
 
Description Academic paper published journal - Sensors. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Circuits! project published in academic journal - Sensors. Audience: International academic community
Engagement methods: PE/Engineering academic paper. Impact: Raising the profile of PE with research within the academic community. Demonstrating the quality of the work to be accepted in a peer reviewed academic journal. Creating a jubilant 'can do' attitude amongst researchers and community partners that motivates more high quality PE activity and future funding applications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/20/2/402
 
Description EPSRC Our Health - Awarded the Principals Teaching Award 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact EPSRC Our Health - Awarded the Principals Teaching Award. Audience: Senior university colleagues. Engagement methods: Written proposal including case studies
Impact: EPSRC Our Health was awarded funding to pay a salary to a new Our Health staff member (capacity building). The Our Health Research Assistant will carry out a full evaluation of the Our Health programme which will improve the quality of our community based research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description EPSRC Transforming Healthcare Showcase - House of Lords 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact EPSRC Transforming Healthcare Showcase in the House of Lords hosted by Lord Darzi of Denham to highlight the technology being developed by the team with EPSRC support.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description European Science Shop Conference 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact European Science Shop Conference 2019 - Invited as a speaker to (Cyprus) to present EPSRC Our Health and share best practice around this new Interdisciplinary model of a science shop with the new science shops (10 sci shops funded by Horizon 2020) Audience: European Science Shops Engagement methods: Workshops, presentations and discussion groups. Impact: EPSRC Our Health is more firmly established within the European community and is part of a wider network that collaborates closely with 1 of the new science shops to create an exchange (student/staff) programmme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.scishops.eu/
 
Description The Craigmilliar Community Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The Craigmilliar Community Festival. Local community, primary school children, families and young adults (20 - 30 years olds)
Engagement methods: Hands on demonstrations, storytelling by primary school children around community based research.
Impact: Formed new community partners (Castleview school teachers/and pupils) new community based research activities designed with new partners
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.crm.ed.ac.uk/community-science-engagement
 
Description The International Edinburgh Book Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The International Edinburgh Book Festival. Audience: Wider Public. Engagement methods: Hands on demonstrations storytelling and poetry
Impact: Formed an Our Health/Citizen collaboration which will allow more community-based research activity supported by the International Edinburgh Book Festival in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019