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Technology imitating life


Scientists from Leicester have discovered a radical new approach to making artificial platelets to help stop bleeding in patients who have too few platelets of their own. This invention could be a major breakthrough for cancer patients suffering from severe or life threatening bleeding.

The development of this highly innovative product has been made possible thanks to a major funding round of £3.1m led by Quester, including investment from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), and the East Midlands Regional Venture Capitalist Fund.

As well as providing money in this funding round, NESTA has played an important role in providing vital seed finance, bridging the gap between the two rounds.

Platelets are blood cells, essential for the blood to clot. When patients suffer from platelet deficiency, blood clots cannot form properly and this can lead to life threatening bleeding. This is a particularly serious problem for patients with leukaemia and those receiving cancer therapy.

The development of the Haemostatix artificial platelets - Haemoplax - has been driven by an urgent need to find a more cost effective, safer, virus-free alternative to platelet transfusion.

The transfusion of platelets prepared from blood donations by Blood Transfusion Services is currently the only available treatment. One big drawback of this method is the potential for passing on infectious agents from donors to recipients, and recently, concerns about the potential risk of transmission of CJD (human BSE) are threatening the supply of platelets for transfusion. Platelets are also expensive to produce, have a shelf life of only five days, and need to be screened to remove the risk of transmission of blood-borne viruses that cause hepatitis and HIV.

Mark White, NESTA Invention and Innovation Director, said: “NESTA is well placed to identify innovative companies at the earliest stage of development and we are delighted to now have Quester and the East Midlands Regional Venture Capital Fund on board as co-investors. They have recognised, along with us, that Haemostatix is a classic illustration of a British firm which is successfully exploiting world-class science.”

Haemostatix, a spin-out from Leicester University, was founded in 2003 by Sarah Middleton (CEO) and Professor Alison Goodall (CSO) in conjunction with the University of Leicester which played a crucial supporting role in the company’s early stages.

Joseph Meaney | alfa
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