· The grant will enable 52 North Health’s NeutroCheck® solution to be expanded and taken into clinical trials
· NeutroCheck aims to provide early identification of patients at risk of a potentially fatal side-effect of chemotherapy treatment, in order to give patients peace of mind and to help save lives
· The funds, stemming from Innovate UK’s Smart Grant programme, follow a smaller award made to 52 North Health in January 2020, highlighting the progress that UK businesses can make through government-funded innovation programmes
· The 21-month collaboration will be between med-tech company 52 North Health, Macmillan Cancer Support, UK Sepsis Trust, UnifAI Technology and Cambridge University Hospitals
Med-tech company 52 North Health has been awarded Innovate UK grant funding for a £1.2m collaboration to enable its NeutroCheck solution to hit key clinical milestones in order to bring the solution to patients.
Collaboration partners include: UnifAI Technology, whose AI-powered digital reader will be incorporated in the solution; Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where the trials will be held; and key charity partners in Macmillan Cancer Support and the UK Sepsis Trust, with the shared goal to provide safe and more effective care to patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Neutropenic sepsis (NS) is a potentially fatal side-effect of chemotherapy treatment which kills three people across England and Wales each day. Due to the fatality risk associated with NS, all patients undergoing chemotherapy who feel unwell are currently required to go directly to A&E, where they receive strong precautionary antibiotics and undergo a full blood test. Half of patients are subsequently found not to be at-risk, and many patients are not receiving their antibiotics quickly enough, endangering their chances of survival.
The NeutroCheck solution includes a small, portable device and a digital platform, which assesses a patient’s risk at home through a blood finger-prick, helping doctors to accurately triage patients, with those at-risk prioritised, and allowing those not at-risk to stay home or instead be seen in the community.
Umaima Ahmad, CEO of 52 North Health said “We are delighted to be collaborating with a brilliant and diverse set of partners on this important project which will further propel the value of the NeutroCheck solution and take it through its first clinical trial. This endorsement, our second Smart Grant from Innovate UK, is so important and allows our brilliant teams to focus on getting the NeutroCheck innovation to as many patients as possible throughout the country, so that we can make care for cancer patients across the NHS safer and more effective.”
Phil Hughes, CEO of UnifAI Technology said “It is really exciting to be involved in the clinical trials and the wider project with NeutroCheck and the other partners where we are collectively combining a range of technologies and capabilities to help preserve and improve the quality of life for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.”
Tanya Humphreys, Head of Innovation Partnerships at Macmillan said: “Neutropenic sepsis is a life-threatening condition and its monitoring can be very stressful for people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy. The NeutroCheck device has the potential to empower patients to take more control of their care and could have a significant positive impact on their quality of life. We are delighted to be supporting 52 North Health through this grant to ensure that people with cancer and their carers are meaningfully involved in the development of the Neutrocheck device. This is also a fantastic opportunity for us to collaborate with all the partners to make a big difference for people with cancer.”
Dr Ron Daniels, Intensive Care Doctor and Founder and Chief Executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, said “Although sepsis can affect people of any age, certain groups of people are at higher risk, and none more so than those undergoing chemotherapy. These patients are already going through enough trauma, so any device designed to guide as to whether or not they need to seek urgent hospital assessment is invaluable – not to mention the positive impact on a stressed NHS. We have partnered with 52 North Health because they have a true understanding of the need: the development of a device for use in the patient's own home, which uses existing and highly relevant markers of risk is absolutely the right approach.”
Dr Hugo Ford, lead cancer clinician for Cambridge University Hospitals, said “This grant provides essential funding to perform the clinical validation study, which will begin next summer and involve about 250 patients.
“The results will underpin a submission for regulatory approval in the shape of UKCA and CE marking, which would allow us to test NeutroCheck using the device in an at-home setting for around 30 patients. This will in turn enable us to build an evidence base to support roll-out of the NeutroCheck solution across the NHS.”