MilliSpot™, a porous polymer-based material for storing dry blood used in laboratory analyses, is a step closer to securing comprehensive patents, following the release of a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) report indicating that all claims of the patent application appear to be novel and inventive.

Developed at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) by Professor Emily Hilder and her research team at the Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science (ACROSS), the MilliSpot™ technology extends the use of traditional paper-based materials for storing small quantities of blood and other samples involved (primarily) in pharmaceutical drug development. The MilliSpot™ materials provide a two to three times more sensitive response than can be achieved from paper.

The research team is working with UniQuest to prepare the technology for a global market launch. An internationally-recognised patent application will boost the value of the technology for potential investors.

The International Preliminary Report on Patentability (IPRP) follows another recent commercialisation milestone for the innovation: a $49,680 Skills and Knowledge grant from Commercialisation Australia to define the capital requirements for manufacturing scale-up versions of a product based on the technology.

Dr Robin Fieldhouse, a UniQuest Manager of Innovation and Commercial Development based at UTAS, said the two achievements were positive ‘de-risking’ markers that potential investors would recognise as enhancing the value this innovation could bring to global health care.

“The IPRP report confirmed the originality of the polymer materials used to separate specified drugs from the blood within the storage medium, resulting in more precise analyses from simplified procedures, and the engineering consultancy funded by the grant revealed some very attractive methods of manufacture at meaningful scales,” Dr Fieldhouse explained.

“These milestones mean we can offer commercial partners a particularly viable and exciting opportunity. It’s a ground floor entry to introducing an analytical materials technology that could help the pharmaceutical industry maximise a whole new range of operational and cost-saving benefits.

“There are also several other sizeable and attractive markets for MilliSpot™-derived laboratory consumable products, including neo-natal screening heel prick tests, more advanced diagnostics, environmental monitoring and even military usage,” Dr Fieldhouse said.

Currently, UniQuest is engaging with prospective industry partners with a view to forming a start-up company that will develop MilliSpot™ into customer-ready products for the multi-billion dollar preclinical drug development market.

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said an IPRP assists Australian university research-based innovations looking to partner with investors and biotechnology companies overseas, particularly, as in the case with MilliSpot™, if it offers a clear report.

“This is an endorsement of the contribution Australian universities can and are making to the global knowledge bank,” Mr Henderson said.

The MilliSpot™ technology’s patent status is one of several project milestones UniQuest will be promoting at the invitation-only JP Morgan Global Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this week. The four-day conference is one of the industry’s largest and features presentations by some 300 private and public companies.

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