Alexander Kalis, correspondent for Impact Entrepreneur, sat down with Andrew Shaw, founder of Attomarker to discuss the importance of testing for personalized health and well-being and how Attomarker are helping to address the future of medicine.
Andrew, it’s a pleasure to speak with you today and to discuss the fascinating work behind Attomarker. Could you explain what Attomarker is and how important testing is for personalized health and well-being for society?
Andrew Shaw (AS): Personalized medicine is a rapidly evolving pro-active paradigm for healthcare, individualizing the patient’s symptoms, precision diagnosis, and personalized treatment. Precision Medicine is data-hungry and requires better biomarker profiles to treat individuals as personalized endotypes, phenotypes, and theratypes.
Whilst medicine in the UK is mainly focused on the treatment of symptoms, this marks a distinct shift to prophylaxis, where diseases with high associated healthcare burdens and costs are prevented from arising in the first place. We are all individuals and our medical treatment should not be generic – it should be based on our genetics and unique endotypic characteristics. This is the future of diagnosis and medicine.
Attomarker has developed a technology for measuring multiple biomarkers in blood and saliva, indeed all bodily fluids, to provide a personal profile in 7 minutes. The data is sent to the Cloud for Big Data and AI to determine a personalized patient healthcare pathway across multiple healthcare settings: at the bedside, in the operating theatre, at the pharmacy, and at home. The platform technology is endlessly applicable, with an assay possible for any protein/biomarker for which an antibody pair (capture and detection) can be raised. The challenge comes in choosing the right biomarkers to detect; recent research revealed that 98% of discovered clinical biomarkers never make it to clinical application – there is huge redundancy in the biomarker market and those that make a meaningful contribution to affecting the patient care pathway are sought above all others.
Attomarker is focussed on four global pandemics: COVID-19, Obesity, Food Allergy and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).
You mention COVID-19, how has Attomarker adapted to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?
AS: Attomarker responded to the pandemic in 2020 and, at 15:16 on 23rd March 2020 In London’s St Thomas’ Hospital, we measured our first patient response to SARS-CoV-2: total IgG, antibodies to Membrane, Spike 1, Spike 2, Nucleocapsid, Envelope along with C reactive protein – the test worked the FIRST TIME!
The Covid-19 Triple Antibody Test is now on sale for vaccine shield surveillance and natural immunity screening in 4 clinics (London, Exeter, Chichester, Tamworth).
We are all individuals and our medical treatment should not be generic – it should be based on our genetics and unique endotypic characteristics. This is the future of diagnosis and medicine.
What does your COVID-19 Triple Antibody Test show and demonstrate?
AS: Live testing of Attomarker’s MHRA-approved Triple antibody test through its CE marked device shows that immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine (or from the virus itself) greatly varies from person to person. Attomarker is rapidly building up its scientific understanding and knowledge that will be able to tell the immunity days of the vaccine on a person, when one should get boosted, and when someone is expected to become susceptible to catching the disease. If we want to keep the pandemic at bay, governments should move towards tailored booster programs based on antibody levels rather than imprecise risk categories.
What is the technology behind Attomarker?
AS: The Liscar 6 is the bench-top version of the Attomarker technology. It received in 2020 a MHRA emergency approval for antibody testing in the pandemic, got its CE mark in April 2021 and is now deployed in 2 clinics in a roll-out plan of 25 clinics in 2021. The hand-held version of the technology has completed an FDA Protocol for accuracy and precision for a CRP test and requires one more design spin to take it to market. Both instruments will perform up to 20 tests simultaneously in 7 minutes from 10 ?L of blood/saliva sample and transmit the data to the Cloud for analysis.
Can you explain how it works?
AS: Attomarker’s biosensor is a patented nanotechnology array that changes brightness in response to a target biomarker. A smartphone video camera then measures the brightness change and each array spot can have up to 20 different tests, repeated several times with control spots. Following this, the smartphone sends data to the Cloud.
At what stage are you in the regulatory approval process?
AS: We have two CE marks: for the Covid-19 Triple Antibody Test and the Liscar 6 benchtop instrument. These can be deployed immediately wherever a CE mark is accepted. The Triple Antibody Test has also been approved by the UK’s Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
If we want to keep the pandemic at bay, governments should move towards tailored booster programs based on antibody levels rather than imprecise risk categories.
The handheld device is at Minimal Viable Product (MVP) stage and needs one/two more design cycles. However, a study has been done into the analytical performance of a C-reactive protein (CRP) test on this device and has shown that the technology means the accuracy and precision bounds specified by the FDA. Since the base technology is the same on the benchtop and handheld devices, this paves the way for future FDA approval of one or both devices, opening up access to US markets.
Beyond COVID-19, what other applications can Attomarker’s technology pursue and what is the market opportunity?
AS: We will focus on three non-COVID Pandemics:
- Diabetes is estimated to be a $2.5 trillion market by 2030 with cases at an all-time global high. Attomarker will provide @Home regular liver function testing to help identify route to remission from Type 2 diabetes. Additional small sample volumes for childhood diabetes will also be a critical target. Regular testing shows progress and can be used in gamification.
- Food allergies is estimated to be a $25bn market by 2030 with food allergies also at an all-time global high. Attomarker will provide in-clinic testing of food allergy from new-born and throughout life. Small sample volumes will allow umbilical blood test and testing of children before their first milk which is important as most allergies develop in childhood. Heel prick or finger prick samples will provide paediatric screening.
- Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is estimated to be a $2 trillion market by 2050. The WHO rate AMR as a bigger global threat than climate change. Overuse of antibiotics is creating resistance, which will become an existential threat to modern medicine. On this, Attomarker will provide rapid testing before all antibiotics prescriptions to diagnose bacterial infections needing antibiotics and viral infections, which do not. Critically, paediatric testing will provide answers for small children.
Beyond this, we are also expecting to launch two new tests in various categories every year: Finally, Attomarker is also exploring partnerships with various biomarker discovery corporations who are seeking platform technologies for their next generation diagnostics. Clinical areas include men’s health & prostate cancer, liver cirrhosis, and animal health.
At what stage is your financing?
AS: We received £500K Seed (2017) and £2.5M Series A (2017) (based on a £25m valuation). We also raised a “matched” Future Fund Convertible loan £1.5m for COVID19 (2020) at 20% discount to £25m. Innovate UK then provided a grant for £508k to help finance our COVID Saliva Development.
Attomarker is now embarking on an Acceleration Capital Round to support the nationwide roll out of the Covid-19 Triple Antibody Test and Liscar 6 benchtop device to 80 sites. The technology is currently in 4 clinics, with deployment in another 6 imminent and a partnership with a chain formed who have access to over 300 clinics and pharmacies nationwide. Providing an extensive install base for the benchtop instrument is crucial, as it is through this fleet that future tests (incl. liver function, allergy, precision fertility) will first enter the market.
The round will also help to complete design and CE marking of the handheld version of the technology, which has significant NRE upfront costs involved with outsourcing a production line of the test cartridges, as well as regulatory hurdles that will require expert input. Once a production line is set up for the CE marked device, manufacturing prices could come down to £1.20 or lower per multiplexed test cartridge.
Disclosure: The author’s firm, Milltrust International LLP, is an investor in Attomarker