Waters Corporation acquires iKnife technology



Waters Corporation has secured a deal to acquire the technology behind the surgical "iKnife" being developed at Imperial College London.

Waters, a leading analytical instrument manufacturer, announced this week that it acquired the technology, called Rapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (REIMS), from MediMass Ltd, a company created by the iKnife’s inventor, Imperial’s Professor Zoltan Takats. For the past three years, Waters and MediMass have worked in partnership with researchers at Imperial College London to investigate applications of REIMS in surgery, which could potentially provide surgeons with diagnostic information about the tissue they are cutting in real time.

Imperial researchers will continue to work with Waters’ scientists to explore applications for the iKnife with hospitals in Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, the College’s partner in the Imperial Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC).

Lord Darzi, Professor of Surgery at Imperial College London and Honorary Consultant Surgeon at Imperial College Hospital NHS Trust, said: “The iKnife has shown potential to provide surgeons with crucial diagnostic information during surgery, but it requires significant further development to become an approved medical device. With Waters’ backing allied to the chemistry and spectroscopy expertise in our department and the access to patients facilitated by the AHSC, the elements are in place to fulfil that development.” 

The iKnife is an adapted electrosurgical knife, which heats tissue as it cuts to make a clean incision. Smoke from the tissue is ionised using REIMS technology and analysed using a mass spectrometer, providing information about chemical composition of the cells.

Last year, Imperial College London researchers published in the journal Science Translational Medicine the results of a preliminary study which demonstrated the concept of using the iKnife to identify different types of tissue in real time. The team are now conducting larger studies to assess whether the iKnife can provide useful diagnostic information during surgery.

Professor Takats, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial, said: “The first development of ambient mass spectrometric methods 10 years ago was welcomed as a revolution, multiplying the potential areas in which mass spectrometry could be applied in daily life. Waters' acquisition of MediMass' technology represents a significant opportunity in the development of a new generation of devices for medical diagnostics and food safety just to mention a couple of the potential application fields.”

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, Head of the Department of Surgery and Cancer, said: “The Waters Corporation is in a unique position to develop REIMS technology for clinical, microbiology and food safety applications - each potentially bringing significant benefit to patients and consumers alike.”

Professor Dermot Kelleher, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial, said: “We are delighted that work from our Academic Health Science Centre has the potential to directly impact outcomes for patients both within the NHS and at a global level. This is an excellent example of how clinical academic innovation can have implications for both health and wealth.”  



Sam Wong

Sam Wong
School of Professional Development

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Email: press.office@imperial.ac.uk
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