EIE is an Investor Readiness Programme that offers the most advanced start-ups and scale-ups the opportunity to undergo an intensive programme to make them investor ready. This programme culminates at our technology investor showcase, where we bring together our cohort of incredible companies with international investors. Please purchase your tickets here for this year’s showcase taking place virtually on 6th October 2022.

As we lead up to the showcase, we are pleased to offer you an in-depth look at the companies in our current cohort.

The cohort for EIE22 comprises of the most innovative companies spanning multiple sectors of interest, and in this new series of stories, we will feature companies that will be pitching for investment at the investor showcase in early October.

Our first feature is on Microplate Dx, whose founders are focussed on developing a rapid diagnostic solution for drug-resistant infections.

Pictured: CEO Dr. Stuart Hannah.
Photo Credit: University of Strathclyde.

The Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance

The pandemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is here, and Microplate Dx is finding ways to combat it.

Antimicrobial resistance is responsible for the deaths of millions of people around the world each year. The O’Neill report estimated that, by 2050, 10 million people around the world could be killed from drug resistant infections per year, including urinary tract infections and sepsis.

Microplate Dx not only meets the need for rapid diagnosis capabilities for a wide variety of bacterial and fungal infections but does so within a rapid timeframe of just thirty minutes. Whereas it typically takes at least two days to identify a drug-resistant infection, the platform technology that Microplate Dx created can identify an infection within half an hour.

How It Started

Microplate Dx started in 2017 as an academic research project at the University of Strathclyde, between the departments of Biomedical Engineering and Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences. The founding team consists of Dr. Stuart Hannah, Dr. Poonam Malik, Professor Damion Corrigan, and Professor Paul Hoskisson.

Dr. Hannah, Microplate Dx CEO, and his team found that people who currently suffer from these drug resistant conditions all have the same message: If their conditions had been detected and identified earlier, many would not now be in the debilitating situations they find themselves in. The need for a rapid diagnostic solution was clear, but no such solution existed.

That’s when Dr. Hannah and his co-founders decided to do something about it. Inspired by the moving stories of those suffering from recurrent or chronic drug resistant conditions, the team received seed funding to develop a rapid diagnostic test, subsequently won a prestigious Longitude Prize Discovery Award set up by UK government, and received support from the Scottish Enterprise and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

Following promising proof of concept data, they began to commercialise the technology and formed a spinout company, Microplate Dx, from a mixture of private equity investment and non-dilutive grant funding.

How the Platform Technology Works

The innovative platform technology comprises two elements: one being the core instrument or reader that essentially includes measurement electronics, software, and readout display and the second is the consumable test cartridges containing highly sensitive sensor technology, and antibiotic-laden gels.

Each test cartridge is unique to the particular infection it is designed to detect (e.g urinary tract infections (UTIs), sepsis, fungal infections etc.) Cartridges are inherently flexible and contain different antibiotics for different infections as required.

The novelty of this new technology platform lies in the design of the consumable test cartridges which allows clinicians to select the best choice of antibiotic to treat a patient’s infection in thirty minutes, which effectively removes empirical “best guess” antibiotic prescribing. This process is known as “antibiotic susceptibility testing” (AST), and the quicker that AST can be performed, the more confidence it gives clinicians to treat patients effectively, vastly reducing complications from severe drug-resistant infections.

“Gold-standard” AST typically takes more than two days, during which time a sample is collected, batched, cultured overnight, followed by organism identification and AST in the presence of different antibiotics.

The process is inherently slow as it requires waiting for bacterial growth, which takes typically anywhere between 18-24 hours.

Taking the Guesswork Out of Prescribing

While there are guidelines that clinicians can use to help them prescribe the best antibiotic, it is still, in reality, about taking an educated guess, says Dr. Hannah, and this is only getting more difficult as more and more resistant organisms emerge.

With the platform offered by Microplate Dx, the results will be provided in under an hour and you remove empirical antibiotic prescribing by not having to take that educated guess, enabling the right antibiotic to be issued the first time.

The result is that clinicians become much more confident in prescribing antibiotics, and the risk of patients developing serious complications as they wait for correct antibiotics is significantly reduced.

Dr. Hannah and his team have ensured that they speak to multiple stakeholders to enhance the innovative solution they’ve developed.

“Patient and public involvement is a crucial part of what we do. By speaking to key opinion leaders (e.g. stakeholders, customers, lab managers, and patients themselves), we learned a lot,” says Dr Hannah. “What do the patients want? It’s not just the customers and end users who inform how you design and take the test forward.”

Dr. Hannah and his team have a clear understanding of what they are hoping for in investors to Microplate Dx.

“Ideal investors should have a good understanding of the area we are operating in (life sciences, AMR) and a portfolio of similar sector-related companies, will be hands on, have a good network of contacts to tap into, will help us set and achieve our objectives, and above all, are honest, engaging, and friendly people to work with.”

When asked why Microplate Dx joined EIE22, Dr. Hannah says, “We decided to apply for EIE22 principally to benefit from the intensive training on offer, and showcase ourselves in the best possible light to investors to enable us to complete our next funding raise. EIE22 has a fantastic reputation for supporting promising start-ups and we wanted to be a part of that success!”

Being part of that success is only one step forward in a long journey. Dr. Hannah emphasises the urgency needed when developing proactive solutions like the kind Microplate Dx has created to combat the risks associated with drug-resistant infections and AMR.

“There is no time to wait to start finding solutions to tackle this major threat to public health,” he says.

You can purchase tickets now to watch Microplate Dx and our 35 other companies in the EIE22 cohort presenting to investors and pitching for investment at the premier showcase taking place this year on 6th October.

Learn more about EIE here.

EIE is delivered by The Bayes Centre, the University of Edinburgh’s innovation hub for data science and artificial intelligence.

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