British technology leading the fight against the global threat of infectious diseases

The best of British technology is unveiled at the Royal Institution today, when we join with Imperial College London to host a summit on the international fight against the spread of infectious diseases

  • Merscov particles.

    Merscov particles. 

    Credit: NiAID

British technology leading the fight against the global threat of infectious diseases

The best of British technology is unveiled at the Royal Institution today, when we join with Imperial College London to host a summit on the international fight against the spread of infectious diseases.

In today’s more interconnected world, factors such as increased movement of people and growing antibiotic resistance mean that infectious diseases are spreading geographically much faster than at any time in history. The World Health Organisation has verified more than 1,100 epidemic events worldwide during the past five years. This, together with the fact that there are 3.4 billion airline passengers per year, means that an outbreak in one part of the world is only hours away from becoming an imminent threat somewhere else.

The Imperial College / Royal Institution (Ri) Summit, ‘Technology vs Infectious Diseases’, sees leading experts reveal how innovation is combatting bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal diseases. It showcases the British technology and scientific research at the forefront of international efforts to tackle this crucial global challenge.

Key to addressing infectious diseases is their prevention and the increasing importance of innovation in vaccines. Dr Emmanuel Hanon, Senior VP Global R&D Vaccines at GSK and Professor Robin Shattock, Head of Mucosal Infection and Immunity at Imperial College London, will detail how technology can improve vaccination coverage worldwide and for a greater range of critical diseases.

Academic Research Nurse, Dr Enrique Castro Sánchez and Games Developer, Mr Jamie Firth, will focus on the first antimicrobial prescribing game developed, to demonstrate the power of electronic games in overcoming the global public health threat of drug-resistant infections.

Technology on display at the Ri will include the LiDia™ BSI Test for diagnosis of bloodstream infections that lead to sepsis, which will be unveiled for the first time. Following the invention of semiconductor based genomic analysis by Imperial College Professor and Ri Trustee, Chris Toumazou, the LiDia™ BSI has been developed by DNA Electronics (DNAe), a company he founded. Late diagnosis of sepsis leads to thousands of preventable deaths every year and the LiDia™ BSI Test will reduce diagnosis time from several days to just 3 hours.

Professor Gail Cardew, Director of Science and Education at the Ri, said: “For over 200 years the Ri has been the place where cutting-edge science has been announced, debated and showcased to the world. Today we find ourselves facing challenges – such as the unprecedented growth of newly emerging diseases – that were unimaginable just a few decades ago. That makes the importance of critical debate through the public communication of science even more paramount.”

Alison Holmes, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London and head of the Antimicrobial Research Collaborative, said: “The potential for infectious diseases to spread rapidly is a live threat at a global level. Today’s summit will uncover how some of the smartest minds across academia, healthcare and industry are pouring their efforts into tackling this challenge. It is a reminder that the research in science and technology carried out in this country has a major role in the fight against global infectious diseases and drug resistant infections.”

Chris Toumazou, Regius Professor of Engineering at Imperial College London, Ri Trustee and Founder and Executive Chairman of DNAe, said: “It is an honour to be pioneering ground-breaking third generation semiconductor DNA analysis technology. Indeed we are very pleased to preview our first genomic analysis test for blood stream infections leading to sepsis, at the historic Ri building – where Michael Faraday undertook his experiments around semiconductor properties, and where the father of antibiotics, Alexander Fleming, presented to the Ri in 1953. Innovation is a long road, so it’s exciting to be close to launch with a world-leading technology that has the potential to transform the clinical management of sepsis.”

Underlining the world-leading nature of UK innovation and DNAe’s breakthrough portfolio of semiconductor DNA genomic analysis technologies, the US BARDA has awarded the company up to $51.9m to develop its sequencing platform for rapid diagnosis in two key applications; antimicrobial resistant infections and influenza.

The event will be introduced by Professor James Stirling, Provost of Imperial College, and will include presentations from Dr Sophie Yacoub from the Singapore-MIT alliance for Research and Technology on dengue, Professor Jake Baum on malaria and Dr Darius Armstrong-James on pathogenic fungi. The Summit will conclude with a keynote address, on priorities for action, given by Professor David Heymann CBE, Head of the Centre on Global Health Security at Chatham House.

Technologies being showcased at the Summit include ProMED, an Internet-based reporting system dedicated to rapid global dissemination of information on outbreaks of infectious diseases; POCAST and Target, facilitating navigation, access and use of national antimicrobial guidelines to support clinical prescribing decisions; and Microreact, open data visualization and sharing for genomic epidemiology.

The joint Imperial College / Royal Institution Summit is being held at the Ri’s Historic home in Mayfair, London, from 1.00-8.30pm today (Tuesday 26 September).  

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