The team will develop a diagnostic test to discriminate between bacterial and viral infections in children using microchip technology.
Imperial College London and The University of Cambridge were selected as joint winners of the 2018 Rosetrees Trust Interdisciplinary Award, the theme of which was interdisciplinary research combining medicine with physics or chemistry. The prestigious prize aims to stimulate collaborative research, with the ambition to achieve breakthrough results that have real potential to improve human health.
Dr Jethro Herberg and Professor Michael Levin from the Department of Medicine, in collaboration with Dr Pantelis Georgiou from the Department Electrical and Electronic Engineering, will develop a rapid diagnostic test for accurate discrimination between bacterial and viral infections in children, using transcriptomic and microchip technology. The multidisciplinary team, which also includes Dr Myrsini Kaforou and Dr Jesus Rodriguez Manzano, will develop the first nucleic-acid based point-of-care handheld system to detect host RNA signatures in blood.
In developing a rapid RNA-based diagnostic test, the team hope to revolutionise clinical decision-making for children with febrile (fever-causing) illnesses at the first contact with the healthcare team, thereby reducing unnecessary hospital admissions, invasive investigations and healthcare costs. This would also enable more appropriate, targeted antibiotic treatment, which would have wider benefits in stemming the tide of antibiotic resistance.
Commenting on the team’s success, Dr Georgiou said: “I’m incredibly honoured that we have received this interdisciplinary award from the Rosetrees Trust. This will allow us to create real impact in the treatment of infection in children by rapidly diagnosing if the cause is bacterial or viral. I’m excited we are now delivering on the promise of microchip-based diagnostic technology through this great collaboration between Engineering and Medicine.”
Professor Levin added: “We are honoured to be awarded the Rosetrees Interdisciplinary Award for 2018. This follows several years of work in the Section of Paediatrics on the application of host RNA expression signatures for diagnosis of childhood infectious and inflammatory diseases. We have now linked our expertise in genomics to the exciting technology and expertise in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, in a collaboration to address one of the world’s most important clinical problems: how to distinguish bacterial and viral infection in febrile patients.”
Dr Herberg said: “This is a great opportunity to combine important discoveries by both teams – bringing together the paediatric team’s minimal RNA diagnostic signatures approach with cutting-edge microchip technology from electrical engineering. This collaboration is made all the more exciting by the team’s very different expertise, and I am looking forward to generating a product with the potential to revolutionise the way we use diagnostic tests”.
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