Innovative inkjet printing allows diagnostics on demand

02 September 2015

Cambridge Consultants has developed a new inkjet printing technology that could potentially radically alter the diagnostics market. The firm’s XylemDx technology turns sheets of paper into diagnostic test cartridges to be used for a variety of signs, allowing for instant personalised health testing.

In the world of today - with aging populations, an increased drive for healthcare efficiency and the rise of ‘consumer healthcare’ - the demand for point-of-care (POC) diagnostics is rising. These POC tests, however, come at a considerably higher cost than centralised lab tests.

To allow for a wider use of diagnostics on demand, by considerably lowering the costs of these POC tests, product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants has developed a new inkjet printing technology that creates a diagnostic test cartridge from a single sheet of paper.

Cambridge Consultants - XylemDx

The XylemDx technology can be used for a wide array of signs, ranging from the latest strain of the flu virus to specific biomarkers for genetic heart conditions. As the technology produces tests that are low-cost and printed in large quantities, it can not only be used to personalise testing, but also to monitor pandemic events, such as Ebola.

The XylemDx technology turns sheets of paper into a variety of different diagnostic tests by configuring them with a bespoke set of test modules, such as electronic, thermal, fluidic, optical or biological reagent modules. Each test module can be produced on the same fabrication device using inkjet-based printing techniques and can be configured for a variety of readers, such as USB-powered devices, smartphones or complex diagnostic instruments.

“Diagnostic tests underpin crucial healthcare decisions so it’s vital they are as fast, accurate, flexible and cost-effective as possible. Early diagnosis and better monitoring of conditions reduces expensive complications and keeps people out of hospital – as well as improving quality of life,” explains John Pritchard, Head of Diagnostics at Cambridge Consultants. “Cambridge Consultants has a rich history of inkjet printing and we’ve now brought that expertise to the world of POC diagnostics. Combined with our extensive scientific and engineering knowledge – including our long track record in the low-cost, high-performance optics that many of these tests require – it’s resulted in a radical new way of providing diagnostics on demand.”

Cambridge Consultants is known for its technologies that are set to alter the healthcare industry. Other innovations of the firm include its smart injection pen for diabetes patients, its surgical tool Chimaera, the Diagnostics For All tool to test Ebola and DropTag – its Drugs shipping monitoring technology.


Medicine economic model creates negative health outcomes

26 March 2019

Profit-driven production of antibiotics has held back the development of vital medical breakthroughs, according to a new report. Analysis from a leading strategy consultancy suggests that a change in economic model and new incentives could prompt pharmaceutical giants to develop cures to major diseases, which could be affordable at scale.

The much maligned pharmaceutical industry has long been criticised for its failure to focus on deep seated issues in public health. For instance, there is increasing concern around microbial resistance, with some bacteria now resistant to all known antibiotics. Combating that requires new antibiotics – but drug companies see little profit in the field, and therefore have not seriously invested in it. Another instance of concern is a focus on treating symptoms rather than curing the diseases themselves, with such treatments requiring long-term payment to mitigate symptoms, rather than one-time cures being delivered.

Cases like the so-called “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli – who received widespread criticism when his company obtained the manufacturing license for the antiparasitic drug Daraprim and raised its price by a factor of 56 (from US$13.5 to $750 per pill – underline the failing of this system to meet the needs of society. New analysis from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) seeks to challenge the current economic model and its inherent failures in favour of a model that creates greater social good while also generating steady reliable returns for pharma companies. The analysis appears in the firm’s ‘Aligning Economic Incentives to Eradicate Diseases’ report.

Different pricing model makes cures more accessible

One example is Hepatitis C. The disease is massively damaging to human life, with considerable negative impacts on patients and society. Treatments have existed for decades, which manage the virus but did not cure it. These treatments had significant side effects however, which saw people not complete rounds – which then resulted in expensive emergency care and secondary health costs.

In 2013 a treatment was developed that effectively cured the virus in 8-12 weeks. The treatment has few side effects and works in most patients. However, five years later fewer than 10% of people globally with the virus have had the cure – largely because of prohibitive costs. The ambition to remove this disease and its large negative drag on the lives of millions by 2030 is becoming increasingly unlikely. The issue is cost.

The current economic model used by pharmaceutical companies mean that early adopters pay sky high prices as the company seeks to recoup costs, with the price eventually coming down to levels at which a larger segment can afford to access the drug – before its generic releases sees mass uptake. This model creates considerable initial barriers, and long-term social costs.

The report subsequently proposes a different pricing model that would see the price of a new drug kept at a constant level for its lifetime but have that level set considerably lower than the current model - which is focused on recouping costs immediately. Under the firm’s model, within 12 years of the Hepatitis C drug’s discovery, up to 96% of the population could be cured, at a cost 30% lower than the UN model and with a cure rate almost 50 percentage points higher than the base model.

The PLA scenario has better social outcomes than the traditional model

A change in model would, according to the firm’s analysis for HCP, triple the number of patients cured within 2 years, reduce the number of liver disease deaths by 60%, reduce total costs to payers by 30% (due to fewer additional costs on healthcare systems), while creating higher and more predictable revenue streams for pharma companies.

“There are many barriers to curing this population, but the dilemma created by current pricing models is one of the biggest,” said Dave Matthews, a BCG Principal and study co-author. The firm adds, “The dilemma results because a high price per patient makes treating everyone prohibitively expensive while an affordable price is too low for pharmaceutical companies to earn back their investments.”

Matthews concluded, “Switching to a population-based model such as the PLA not only makes the cure affordable, but also creates strong motivation to identify, diagnose, and treat as many patients as possible before the license expires.”

Related: Ten year deal activity in pharmaceuticals industry stands at $2.4 trillion.