Four new proof of Concept Awards for the University of Glasgow

Published: 28 February 2003

Iain Gray, Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning announces the fourth round of the Scottish Enterprise's Proof of Concept Awards today, Friday 28 February 2003.

The University of Glasgow has secured a further 4 awards in this, the fourth round of Proof of Concept grants, bringing its current total of projects (joint and lead) to 21.

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University of Glasgow and University of Strathclyde.

Professor Miles Padgett, Principal Investigator, outlined the concept of the project, 'It could be argued that the barrier to delivering high-data-rate services to the majority of the population is no longer a lack of new and better technology. Rather, it is the logistics and expense of installation that restrict uptake, particularly in cities. Free-space optics offers a way to reduce the total expense for completion of high-speed data links over short distances.'

His team of physicists at Glasgow and his colleagues at Strathclyde University have recently demonstrated how certain quantum states - specifically orbital-angular-momentum (OAM) eigenstates - can be distinguished with high efficiency.

In principle, the same amount of light required for one bit of information encoded in polarization could transmit multiple bits of information encoded in OAM, resulting in a faster optical link. What is more, OAM quantum states do not affect the properties of light, so can be used in combination with traditional techniques (polarization, wavelength).

Furthermore, this technique will be able to distinguish individual photons in different OAM states, offering the potential for quantum cryptography for use in security applications.

Breath Monitoring using Laser Spectroscopy to Screen for Lung Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease.

University of Glasgow and University of Dundee

In the UK, lung cancer is diagnosed in over 30,000 patients a year. There are no early symptoms and late diagnosis is the main reason that less than 7% of patients survive for 5 years.

An effective early screening technique has the potential to significantly increase this survival rate. Although other diagnostic methods have been suggested, it is believed that significant potential would exist for an early screening technique that was relatively straightforward to use.

It is known that free radicals can be generated by the human body whether it is healthy or not. The resulting oxidative damage can be detected by the presence of volatile hydrocarbons. These are poorly soluble in tissue and so can be detected in exhaled breath. Early results indicate that the detection of these gases at concentrations of a few parts per billion (ppb) can be linked to cardiovascular diseases.

The teams at Glasgow and Dundee aim to combine clinical expertise with ultra-sensitive detection techniques for hydrocarbon gases in pursuit of a reliable, yet easy to perform, early screening technique.

They aim to prove that ultra-sensitive gas detection can be applied to the development and implementation of a widescale screening programme for diseases such as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. The optical measurement technique has been proven in other areas, but not yet for medical screening.

'We need to demonstrate the feasibility of producing a turn-key instrument capable of being operated by non-specialist staff. This would facilitate routine examination of thousands of breath samples daily and allow this new diagnosis tool to be employed as part of the test sequence implemented by respiratory clinics', commented Professor Miles Padgett.

Diagnostic Test for ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis)

University of Glasgow

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a disorder that effects as many as 100,000 people in the UK and has a serious social and economic impact worldwide.

In January 2002 the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, confirmed that, 'CFS/ME is a debilitating and distressing condition affecting many people'. The report of the Scottish Short Life Working Group on ME/CFS was published in December 2002 emphasising the importance of developing a clinical service to these patients. One of the difficulties, however, has been the lack of a diagnostic test for ME/CFS.

The recent identification of a gene product abnormality in patients with ME/CFS demonstrated that there may be a direct association between this gene and ME/CFS. Proving this concept would enable the development of a simple diagnostic test kit which could be made widely available to health care professionals.

Dr John Gow explains, 'As a member of the UK ME Association's Scientific and Medical Advisory Panel, I am acutely aware that a diagnostic test is needed. Diagnosis of ME/CFS is currently one of differentiation and exclusion (excluding the presence of other disorders) as no specific diagnostic test for CFS currently exists in the marketplace. A test would help identify those patients with the syndrome and, importantly, exclude those patients suffering from other conditions. The resultant global market potential for ME/CFS testing is huge and growing.'

Recent advances in the analysis of the human genome have resulted in a greater understanding of the blueprint for life and the potential for humans to develop diseases and conditions in the presence of genetic variation or mutation. This knowledge has allowed the identification of a gene abnormality which may be associated with ME/CFS and which may allow the development of both a laboratory based PCR diagnostic test and a more simple antibody based ELISA test.

Dr. Abhijit Chaudhuri, a senior clinician working on the project with Dr Gow and a member of the Scottish Short Life Working Group on ME/CFS, continued, 'We want to characterise the gene abnormality linked to ME/CFS and then develop a simple diagnostic test which could be used in a primary healthcare setting. In addition, a knowledge of the genetics of ME/CFS will help us to develop new strategies for managing our patients. This award by the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept fund will enable us to work rapidly towards a diagnostic test '

Improved Method of Male Fertility Testing

University of Glasgow

Infertility is a world-wide issue. In the UK, it affects at least one in seven couples and in the USA, this can rise to one in five. In about 30% of cases, the man is the source of the infertility of the couple. In the Western world, fertility rates are falling and, in turn, increasing the demand for accurate fertility testing.

Fertility professionals have admitted that current methods for testing male fertility are less than satisfactory in that they are often subjective and unreliable, in addition to being time consuming. As a consequence, results of tests vary between clinics. Many in the field have stated that a more objective, automatic way of assessing a semen sample would represent a significant advance.

The technology involved in this project aims to do just that ヨ to provide an automatic means of providing an objective assessment of the fertility of a semen sample.

In an unusual transfer of technology, techniques developed in the Department of Aerospace Engineering are being used in this multi-disciplinary project to investigate methods of improving the assessment of male fertility.

Following a discussion on the inter-disciplinary potential of aerospace engineering technology, Dr. Richard Green and Dr. Eric Gillies began to think about how and where their techniques might be applied to other areas.

One area of interest was male fertility and how it is assessed from the analysis of a fluid semen sample. They soon made contact with Dr. Allan Pacey, an andrologist at the University of Sheffield. Dr. Pacey explained exactly the difficulties with traditional semen analysis and what future advances he would like to see in the field.

As Dr Green explains, 'We managed to get start-up funding from the Medical Research Council and the progress made in that work has led to this current Proof-of-Concept award. Our team, along with the expert assistance of Mr. Richard Cannon (an aeronautical engineer), hope to build and test a prototype advanced technology semen analyser during the course of this project.'

Media Relations Office (

About The Proof of Concept Fund The ?33m Fund launched in 1999 now supports 118 ground-breaking projects worth nearly ?18million and has created 287 new jobs. It concentrates on early-stage ideas which have typically reached patent level and could lead to the creation of new businesses, or licensing innovative technologies. Successful bidders must demonstrate that their ideas have originality and true commercial potential.

The projects supported via the Fund are high risk and will generally take several years to become commercially viable investments.

The objectives of the Fund are:

To improve the level and quality of commercialisation through the provision of funding for early stage development activity within Scotland?s universities, research institutes and NHS trusts.

To contribute to the development of Scotland?s clusters by facilitating the exploitation of enabling technologies from within the fundamental and strategic research base.

To contribute to the longer-term development of a strong, knowledge-based economy in Scotland.

Further details on the PoC Fund, the projects that are currently supported and the application process can be found at:

About Scottish Enterprise

Scottish Enterprise is the main economic development agency for Scotland covering 93% of the population from Grampian to the Borders. The Scottish Enterprise Network consists of Scottish Enterprise and 12 Local Enterprise Companies. Working in partnership with the private and public sectors the Network aims to build more and better businesses, to develop the skills and knowledge of Scottish people, and to encourage innovation to make Scottish business internationally competitive.

A 'cluster' is a group of related industries and organisations. They can be each other?s customers, competitors, partners, suppliers or research and development sources. Partners in a cluster continue to compete, but they also begin to share the benefits of innovative ideas and practices that each contributes. This makes them more competitive. An example of a successful cluster is the Biotechnology industry in Dundee. The cluster approach in Scotland, pioneered by Scottish Enterprise, aims to ensure that Scotland?s small, open economy thrives in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Project Contact Details

Improved Method of Male Fertility Testing

Dr Richard Green, Department of Aerospace Engineering 0141 330 4312

Commercialisation Manager - Lynne Brown 0141 330 2731

Diagnostic Test for ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis)

University of Glasgow

Dr John Gow 0141 201 2465

Commercialisation Manager ? Brian McGeough 0141 330 3120

Multibit Photons ? Increased Data Density in Free Space Optical Communications

University of Glasgow and University of Strathclyde

Professor Miles Padgett 0141 330 4707

Commercialisation Manager ? Don Whiteford 0141 330 2728

Breath Monitoring using Laser Spectroscopy to Screen for Lung Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease.

University of Glasgow and University of Dundee

Details as per above

First published: 28 February 2003