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Funding secured to produce new fluorescent materials for diagnostics

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The use of fluorescent materials could have huge diagnostic potential

ChromaTwist Ltd has received a funding boost in its effort to develop a new class of fluorescent materials for use in bio-sensing, which could help test for diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

The £300,000 investment will allow the firm to use these new nano compounds as ‘signalling beacons’ that will change what light they emit when they are linked to antibodies that can recognise certain disease cells.

This will then allow it to be used on both bio-imaging and bio-sensing platforms, with the developers expected to test it on existing products already on the market.

Those at ChromaTwist are expecting to have devices which can use these fluorescent materials finalised by 2022.

These materials were first discovered in 2014 by a team of experts in nanoscale materials from the University of Birmingham’s schools of engineering and chemistry.

The group were initially leading research into photo-conducting liquid crystals but soon realised they had discovered compounds where the light emitted from them could be altered.

Small adjustments in their molecular structure altered the colour of the light they emit, which could allow them to be used to help detect the presence of certain cells in the body, giving them huge diagnostic potential.

The team at ChromaTwist are now looking to test this chemistry and biochemistry over the next year.

Professor Jon Preece from the University of Birmingham commented: “We have recruited and expanded our team of researchers so we can expedite product development for biological imaging and sensing. 

“We expect the resulting dyes to be fully compatible with existing flow cytometry equipment, and are currently seeking development partners who wish to exploit our monopoly breaking technology for the 355nm sector of the flow cytometry market.”

ChromaTwist is a University of Birmingham spinout, with it providing £50,000 of the funding. This will add to the £350,000 already received from Innovate UK as well as the further £90,000 match funding from its directors.

Cancer and diabetes are not the only conditions that can be helped through fluorescent material technologies.

Health Tech World recently reported that UK firm Stream Bio’s new project to use its fluorescent nanotechnology to detect the indicators of a heart attack.

Researchers from the Netherlands have also been using similar technologies to monitor viral infections in real time.

Accolades have already been handed out to those at ChromaTwist for its work so far, with the firm nominated as ‘one to watch’ in The Spinoff Prize 2020 as well as being Royal Society of Chemistry Emerging Technologies finalists in 2019.

The company is also looking at other potential applications of this technology, such as using it in recycling to better sort plastic waste.

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