Early-warning sensor systems that can test and track serious infectious diseases – such as major flu epidemics, MRSA and HIV – using mobile phones and the internet are being developed by a major new Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (IRC) led by UCL (University College London).
The new £11 million IRC, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (total investment £16 million), will develop mobile health technologies that allow doctors to diagnose and track diseases much earlier than ever before.
The IRC brings together scientists, engineers and clinicians from UCL, Imperial College, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Newcastle University, together with NHS stakeholders UCL Partners, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the UCLH and Newcastle NIHR Biomedical Research Centres, Public Health England and industry partners – OJ-Bio, Microsoft, Cambridge Life Sciences, Mologic, O2 Health, Zurich Instruments, XFAB and Cepheid.
The IRC will pioneer low cost, easy to use mobile phone-connected diagnostic tests based on advances in nanotechnology for use in GP surgeries, pharmacies, elderly care homes, developing countries and at home.
The mobile tests aim to identify diseases with high sensitivity and specificity and give results within minutes from just a pin-prick of blood or a simple swab. Rapidly transmitting results into secure healthcare systems will alert doctors to potentially serious outbreaks with geographically linked information.
The UCL team are already developing a smart-phone-connected prototype test for HIV with industry partners OJ-Bio.
The IRC will also track reported symptoms of infection by searching millions of internet sources including media reports, search engine queries (e.g. Google Trends and Bing) and social networking sites (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) to identify outbreaks even before people attend clinics or from parts of the world that lack the resources for traditional public health surveillance.
EPSRC IRC in Early Warning Sensing Systems for Infectious Diseases.
Team: UCL – Dr Rachel McKendry, Prof. Deenan Pillay, Prof. Ingemar Cox, Prof. Anne Johnson, Prof. Robin Weiss, Prof. Vince Emery (now Surrey), Prof. Andreas Demosthenous, Prof. Quentin Pankhurst; LSHTM – Prof. Rosanna Peeling; Imperial College – Prof. Molly Stevens; Newcastle University – Prof. Calum McNeil, Dr Neil Keegan, Prof. Colin Harwood, Prof. Anil Wipat, Dr Philip Manning; Dr John Hedley; Public Health England: Prof. Mike Catchpole; Prof. Richard Pebody.