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Grant for new device to monitor gum disease


A North East team who have developed a device which will help monitor gum disease have been awarded more than £1,000,000 of Government funding.

Scientists at Newcastle University, working with biotechnology companies OJ-Bio Ltd and Orla Protein Technologies, are developing a novel device which has great potential in rapidly detecting the early signs of gum disease and monitoring improvement as the condition is treated. The government-backed Technology Strategy Board and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) have awarded the grant funding to the £1.3m project to help the consortium develop the prototype into a commercial product.

The project will deliver a device that will enable patients and dentists to monitor gum disease accurately, simply and cost effectively, by identifying signs of the disease in saliva. 

Gum or periodontal disease is a major healthcare problem in the western world and has been linked with an increased risk of diabetes and other medical problems.  It also has a huge economic impact, with an estimated annual cost to the UK economy of £2.78 billion. 

The funding allows OJ-Bio and Orla to work with leading scientists Dr John Taylor and Professor Philip Preshaw, from the Institute of Cellular Medicine (ICM) & Centre for Oral Health Research (COHR) at Newcastle University.

The principal investigator Dr Taylor said: “We are delighted to obtain the funding for this project which is an exciting combination of laboratory and clinical investigations building on our existing strengths in biomarker research. This is an excellent example of translational biomedical research which will not only deliver new technology for patient benefit, but will also generate important information about the molecular biological processes which underpin chronic inflammatory diseases.”

Professor Preshaw, director of the Clinical Research Facility at the Newcastle Dental Hospital, said: “We will test the device in real-life situations - it will be used by dentists, but also by patients.  Our objective is to detect gum disease, but also monitor improvement of the condition as we treat it.  If we can detect gum disease early, it could save the NHS millions of pounds as well as helping the health of millions of people.”

OJ-Bio was created to develop a new generation of hand-held, real-time diagnostic devices that combine biotechnology processes with electronics manufacturing.  The company is a joint venture between UK biotechnology company Orla Protein Technologies and the major electronics company Japan Radio Co. Ltd (JRC). 

OJ-Bio had already performed an initial study for the Technology Strategy Board, which demonstrated the feasibility of a nanobiosensor device for the detection of proteins called matrix metalloproteinases, which are involved in a variety of diseases. 

Dr. Dale Athey, CEO of OJ-Bio, said: “This funding is a great boost for the development of our technology in new application areas; it allows us to work with key experts in the field in an area of compelling need.  As well as gum disease, we are also developing products to detect respiratory viruses such as flu, and markers of other diseases.”

The project brings together a multi-disciplinary effort of UK excellence in nanoscale science: electronic biosensor company, OJ-Bio Ltd,  nanobiotechnology company, Orla Protein Technologies Ltd, and excellence in molecular biology and clinical research at Newcastle University.

The £1.3 million project, part of a government-funded programme of business-led nanoscience research and development, will allow the consortium to develop this further into a simple, easy-to-use device for use in real-life situations.

published on: 6 June 2012