Centre for Inflammation Research

Major funding boost granted for Proteus

December 2017: Proteus has been granted a major funding boost worth £3.8M to continue developing their research into diagnosing and managing lung diseases.

Science Minister Jo Johnson yesterday announced additional funding for three Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Interdisciplinary Research Collaborations (IRCs) – Proteus, SPHERE and I-Sense.

Since receiving the initial £9.5 million EPSRC IRC grant in October 2013, Proteus has designed and constructed fully integrated multi-colour imaging platforms, which in combination with novel optical fibres and new detectors allow sensing, imaging and therapeutic interventions deep in the human lung.

In the first four years of the project the team have synthesised a range of chemical probes with the ability to detect and signal the presence of disease biomarkers including infection to enable the rapid and accurate diagnosis of bacterial infection, they have designed and fabricated a number of revolutionary detector chips as well as a camera that can 'see' through the body.

The next steps for the Proteus team are to take the technology into a new area in which different flavours of light can be used to diagnose disease, using the teams' highly advanced light sensors that are able to count a single photon.

Proteus Director Prof Mark Bradley said:  

We will bring together components and integrate them into a system that provides unprecedented sensitivity and specificity for disease diagnosis and therapy monitoring.In addition the proposal moves the IRC towards sustainability, creating a legacy from the EPSRC investment – accelerating the pathways to take new technology into patients, while developing commercial opportunities.

Proteus scientists, clinicians, project managers, regulatory, legal and business development experts are all co-located in a real physical "hub" and share an open plan office within the Queen’s Medical Research Institute, as part of the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research.

The IRC has become a beacon of excellence for interdisciplinary research and co-location, and was cited as an exemplar as such to a recent House of Lords Life Sciences and Technology committee. Proteus has a strong translational agenda with multiple filed patents now undergoing active exploitation, while four compounds and a prototype system have entered first in-human studies.

As part of the "Next Steps" Programme, the Proteus IRC will establish a UK Healthcare Technology Accelerator Facility (HTAF) for current and future interdisciplinary projects both within Proteus and beyond. This will include added expertise including health economics, care pathway analysis and trial design whilst leveraging the full range of skill-sets, academic, governance, regulatory and translational, required to progress engineering and physical sciences technology from across the UK, from bench to bedside, accelerating the commercial and clinical translation pathways.

Proteus will continue to be led by the University of Edinburgh with the team coming from the three founder institutions: the University of Edinburgh, the University of Bath and Heriot Watt University.

The University of Durham, who have been involved as a partner University, will now become the fourth member of the Proteus IRC. EPSRC Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson, said:  

It is through innovative thinking and collaboration that we will address the biggest health and wellbeing issues facing society, and these three IRCs are the embodiment of that approach. They have already achieved a great deal in their first four years, and this additional funding will provide a springboard for them to realise yet more of their great potential and become thriving centres of excellence.

When partner funding is included, almost £14 million is being invested in the three IRCs. He said:  

This additional £11 million investment will enable vital collaborations to continue addressing many of the most pressing health and wellbeing issues, boosting the UK's status as an innovation nation. Research and development are central to building a Britain that's fit for the future. Through our new Industrial Strategy and further investment of £2.3 billion, we are working with industry to remain at the cutting edge of scientific discovery.

Researchers from Proteus, SPHERE and i-Sense gathered at a conference
Researchers from EPSRC IRCs Proteus, SPHERE and i-Sense at a healthcare technology conference in Bath, June 2017.

The three IRCs were initially established in 2013 with a £32 million investment by EPSRC. The IRCs Next Steps funding will support activities at the IRCs following the end of their current grants in September 2018.


Led by: Professor Mark Bradley, University of Edinburgh

EPSRC grant: £3,800,000

Total grant value: £4,800,000

Partners: Durham University, University of Bath, Heriot-Watt University, UCL

Further Information:

For further information on any of the three IRCs mentioned, contact the EPSRC press office on 01793 444 044, or by email.

EPSRC email 

Official EPSRC press release (EPSRC website)

Video featuring researchers from Proteus, SPHERE and i-Sense (YouTube website)

Gallery of photographs taken at the EPSRC Healthcare Technology IRCs conference (Flikr website)

Proteus website