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Sunday 22 April 2018

Irish scientists behind radical new test for pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia occurs during pregnancy
Pre-eclampsia occurs during pregnancy
Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

A groundbreaking test to diagnose pre-eclampsia in pregnant women is being developed by a team of Irish scientists.

Inform Bioscience has signed a deal with the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in the US to roll out the simple urine test that could revolutionise pre-natal care by detecting the condition at 26 weeks.

Charles Garvey, chief executive, hopes that the state-of-the-art technology – a biomarker which will identify a specific type of protein in the podocytes, a part of the kidney – will be ready for market within 18 months.

"At the moment doctors don't have any way of identifying women who have pre-eclampsia until the symptoms begin to manifest," he said.

"That's okay if they come on slowly, but sometimes a woman can feel fine and healthy in the morning and by that evening she's in intensive care and her baby is delivered ready or not.

"When in the pregnancy it happens is unpredictable as well. Some women get it as early as 26 weeks while others will get it just before their due date.

"The thing is that if they don't know what to look for, they might just think they are tired or not feeling well and not seek medical advice, but if not responded to fairly quickly it can escalate."

Mild pre-eclampsia can affect up to 10pc of first-time pregnancies, while more severe pre-eclampsia can affect up to 2pc of pregnancies.

High blood pressure, protein in the woman's urine and fluid retention are all signs of the potentially fatal disease, which can result in seizure, stroke and coma.

It kills up to 80,000 women and 500,000 infants worldwide each year. Infants can also suffer cerebral palsy, blindness, epilepsy, deafness and lung conditions.

The prognostic test was originally discovered through pioneering research by Vesna Garovic, a Mayo Clinic nephrologist. The clinic patented the test, but awarded the licence to Inform Bioscience this week, which is working with scientists at the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute at DCU to develop, validate and commercialise the product.

The firm, which has secured €160,000 funding from Enterprise Ireland and AIB Seed Capital, is a subsidiary of Meta- bolomic Diagnostics which is also developing technology that will identify women who will be at risk of pre-eclampsia as early as 15 weeks.

Both will be rolled out country by country once approved by each regulatory body, Mr Garvey said. "Inform Bioscience is bridging the gap between the discovery of quality technology and its commercialisation.

"Today is a key milestone in the development of Inform Bioscience and demonstrates our capacity to work with and integrate the work of world-class research institutions such as Mayo Clinic."

Enterprise Ireland revealed it has recently formalised a collaboration with the Mayo Clinic which will see the commercialisation of up to 20 novel medical technologies in Ireland over the next five years.

Irish Independent

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