Dr Maïwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas, an associate professor from Heriot-Watt’s Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering is one of eight researchers in the UK to win funding from the EPSRC’s Healthcare Technologies Challenges Awards.
Dr Maïwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas has been awarded almost £950,000 to develop a ‘near-patient’ approach to improve blood sampling and increase the robustness and reliability of biomarkers.
We want to standardise the extraction of tumour DNA from blood samples, with an enclosed system that is very safe, easy to use and does not involve human handling of the samples.
In most cancers, dying tumour cells release circulating DNA (ctDNA), which can be used to detect and monitor cancers. Very sensitive assays and highly complex workflows are needed to precisely detect ctDNAs.
Dr Kersaudy-Kerhoas added: “We want to standardise the extraction of tumour DNA from blood samples, with an enclosed system that is very safe, easy to use and does not involve human handling of the samples.
“Our device will extract DNA straight after blood is drawn, right next to the patient’s bed, to capture biomarkers when they are at their freshest. This will preserve the integrity of samples and make all analysis thereafter much more accurate, and potentially less costly.
Dr Olga Oikonomidou, an academic consultant medical oncologist specialising in breast cancer and based at Western General Hospital, NHS Lothian and Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre said: “Early detection and intervention are the most effective means for reducing morbidity and mortality of cancer. This methodology will bring improvements for patients and NHS and certainly academia. It will change a time-consuming methodology into a simple, one-step procedure that will be more accurate and effective for patients.
Dr Kersaudy-Kerhoas and her team will spend the next four years designing, testing and deploying in pilot studies a credit-card sized cartridge device that will make near-patient, instantaneous testing a sustainable and cost-effective procedure for the NHS.
Professor Philip Nelson, chief executive of the EPSRC, said: “EPSRC’s Healthcare Technologies Challenge Awards are designed to equip the next generation of research leaders with the tools they need to tackle current and emerging health challenges facing society.
“These awards will help them to develop novel therapies that enhance efficiency and reduce risks to patients; create prostheses and other devices to restore normal function; produce minimally-invasive physical interventions to repair damage or remove disease; and optimise treatment for the individual, improving health outcomes.”