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Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Two men in front of a ornate mantelpiece.

Dr Saif Ahmad (left), Chief Scientific and Medical Officer at 52 North Health with Dr Pietro Sormanni, Group Leader at the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, credit to 52 North Health

Innovate UK has awarded £200k for a collaboration between med-tech company 52 North Health and a research group in the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge to develop new diagnostic tests for cancer and other diseases.

The award will primarily fund the creation of an exciting new post for an immunoassay scientist to research lateral flow-technology towards designing highly sensitive tests for diseases.

52 North Health is a UK and US-based med-tech company focused on reinventing healthcare journeys and known most widely for NeutroCheck®, a device which helps to rapidly identify chemotherapy patients at risk of sepsis. The Sormanni research group researches the key roles of antibodies in biomedical research, as well as in the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases, including cancer and neurodegeneration.

The grant was made through Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme, which aims to connect forward-thinking businesses with the UK’s world-class knowledge bases to deliver business-led innovation projects for growth.

The immunoassay scientist will develop and validate novel antibodies, to create the next generation of low-cost rapid diagnostic tests. The unique opportunity includes a bespoke residential training programme which will enable the individual selected to develop multidisciplinary skills across scientific research and business, spending time at both the University laboratories and 52 North Health’s offices in Cambridge.

This project will leverage technology from both partners, including state-of-the-art antibody design methods pioneered within the lab of Dr Pietro Sormanni, and 52 North Health’s innovative lateral flow test technology, which enables measurement of both blood cells and soluble biomarkers from a single blood fingerprick. This work will enable the creation of highly sensitive devices to support the identification and treatment of novel disease indications.

With life sciences expected to be one of the great drivers of growth for the UK in the 21st century, and aligning with the government’s Life Science Vision set out in 2021, this unique partnership aims to deliver on the recognition that innovation fuels higher productivity, growth and exports.

Dr Saif Ahmad, Chief Scientific and Medical Officer and co-founder of 52 North Health, commented: "This is a hugely exciting opportunity to leverage 52 North’s unique platform technology and the Sormanni Lab’s world-leading antibody development technologies to create transformative diagnostic devices that can empower patients and healthcare professionals in the management of life-threatening medical conditions, such as sepsis."

Dr Pietro Sormanni, group leader at the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, added: "From an academic standpoint, this partnership represents a unique opportunity to translate the fundamental research we carry out into clinical reality, with the potential to greatly improve the healthcare journey of many patients."

Jody Chatterjee, Knowledge Transfer Adviser, Innovate UK KTN, stated: "KTPs have been successfully supporting company and academic partnerships for over 47 years across a range of industries and sectors throughout the UK. In recent years there have been between 700 and 900 such partnerships with around 200 projects ending and a similar number replacing them. From next year onwards we are expecting that the KTP programme will support nearly 1000 such partnerships. Around 94% of these partnerships achieve or over-achieve their objectives - 65% of the Associates, who act as the conduits of knowledge transfer from the academic teams to the companies, remain with their host companies. I am truly excited to have the partnership between 52 North Health and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge join our KTP family."