Roche to use ‘open innovation’ to develop nanotechnology diagnostics

Roche has announced a new ‘open innovation’ research alliance in nanotechnology to develop new diagnostic tools.

The Swiss company is to work with BioMed X, a new open innovation lab in Heidelberg, Germany, which brings together academics and business to work in cutting-edge bioscience and engineering.

The new collaboration will establish a research group focusing on the development of a ‘novel sensor technology platform’ based on new nanomaterials such as graphene.

A great deal of early research into using nanotechnology to develop new diagnostics has already been done, but remains in its infancy. The technology promises to provide instant results, allowing doctors to run tests instantly, cutting out the need for lab tests.

Roche and BioMed X will invite outstanding early-career scientists from leading academic institutions around the world to submit original project proposals in the fields of biotechnology, nanotechnology and engineering. Roche and BioMed X will jointly select the best ideas and research talents to form a new research group within BioMed X’s open innovation lab in Heidelberg.

Roche is exceptional among pharma companies in maintaining its own diagnostics business, and aims to be a leader developing faster diagnostic tests that can be used in primary care to help accelerate treatment.

As well as being an expanding technological field and market in itself, Roche hopes its lead in diagnostics will produce synergies with its drug treatments. This is particularly the case in cancer treatment, where speedier diagnosis is vital, and a therapy area in which Roche is one of the leaders.

BioMed X will be responsible for the operation of the innovation centre facility, providing entrepreneurial education and enabling access to the Heidelberg scientific community and research facilities.

“We have been looking into open innovation opportunities before and are excited to work with BioMed X’s novel and inspiring concept. What we can do in this incubator complements our internal research activities very well,” said Matthias Essenpreis, chief technology officer of Roche Diagnostics.

The winners of the project plan competition will be invited to develop their concept around combining state-of-the-art nanomaterials research with biomedical know-how in order to develop a new sensor technology platform for near-patient testing.

Near-patient testing (also known as point-of-care testing) is testing taken at the time of the consultation, allowing doctors to make well-informed decisions and speeding up diagnosis and treatment across disease areas.

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