Institute for Regeneration and Repair

IBDSENSE: A new technology for diagnosis of inflammatory bowel diseases

Developing a new technology to diagnose and monitor inflammatory bowel diseases

IBDSENSE plate assay. The technology generates bright fluorescence only when the biosamples from IBD patients are in contact wit
IBDSENSE plate assay. The technology generates bright fluorescence only when the biosamples from IBD patients are in contact with an activatable reagent.

With over 7 million people affected worldwide, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) have become a major public health challenge in recent years. IBD causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and currently has no cure. IBD diagnosis and monitoring techniques have traditionally relied on invasive methods such as colonoscopies and tissue biopsies, which can be unpleasant for patients. Our team developed a novel fluorescence-based technology that can measure the activity of proteolytic enzymes in patient biosamples. Some proteases, like granzymes, are secreted by T cells, which are key effector cells in IBD, and their activity has been directly linked to inflammation in the guts of IBD patients. This technology meets the strong demand for non-invasive technologies to improve the diagnosis and provision of better treatment choices and personalised care for IBD patients.

Our team started to work on this technology back in 2016. Jamie Scott, a Chemistry undergraduate from the University of Edinburgh, synthesized collections of molecular probes to detect the activity of the enzyme granzyme B. After several iterations of molecular evolution, we developed a quick, selective and sensitive sensor that could measure enzyme activity 3 orders of magnitude faster than any other commercial reagent.[1] In parallel, our team had been working with Dr Gwo-Tzer Ho, consultant gastroenterologist, and his group had found high levels of granzyme B in biosamples from IBD patients, so we were awarded an ERC proof-of-concept grant to test our technology in clinical biosamples, which allowed us to jump from TLR3 to TRL4. In order to progress the technology into a business opportunity, our teams worked with Edinburgh Innovations to obtain funding from Opportunity Qualification and Company Creation funds from the Scottish Enterprise, which helped us run a market analysis and build a first business plan. In 2023, 7 years after the project started, we were awarded an EIC Transition funds (€2.5M) that will lead to the creation of the spin-out company IBDSense.

This case study exemplifies our vision for the IRR Chemistry Hub, a place where technology developers will work with biomedical scientists and clinicians to develop innovations that can help understand disease, improve the diagnosis and stratification of patients better and accelerate the discovery of new drugs.

  1. Scott, et al. A fluorogenic probe for granzyme B enables in-biopsy evaluation and screening of response to anticancer immunotherapies. Nat. Commun. 2022, 13, 2366, doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-29691-w.

Find out more

Read more about IBDSENSE: New EU funded technology development project could improve inflammatory bowel disease diagnosis