NORTH-EAST company Biosignatures is developing new blood tests that could save cancer patients from undergoing unnecessary biopsies – and now its research has been given a boost by Go Digital Newcastle.
Funding from Go Digital Newcastle’s business support programme has helped the firm provide its software developers with new computers to speed up their research work.
Business development manager Dr Ben Chaffey said: “Our test system first measures the concentration of hundreds of proteins in a small sample of a patient’s blood.
“We then use innovative statistical software to analyse this complex data and determine how likely it is that this person has a particular condition.”
The Go Digital Newcastle programme provides eligible SMEs in the city with free masterclasses, workshops, one-to-one advice, funding for IT hardware and high-speed broadband connection vouchers.
Biosignatures employs 11 people at its premises in Garth Heads, Newcastle. As well as prostate cancer, it is carrying out research on a range of topics including improved diagnostics for kidney, bladder and thyroid cancer, and works with an international group of clients and research partners.
“Once our research is complete we hope to offer, through collaboration with our NHS partners such as the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, a blood test which can be used to judge whether a patient would benefit from undergoing a procedure such as biopsy or not,” said Ben.
“Such a test would bring benefits to patients by helping to ensure invasive procedures are only carried out when people stand to gain the most benefit from them.
“It would also benefit the NHS by reducing the overall number of procedures carried out, saving staff time and money which can then be spent elsewhere.
“Our research generates a vast amount of information. The new equipment Biosignatures has been able to purchase with the assistance of Go Digital Newcastle will speed up our work by 20 to 30 per cent, a very welcome boost at an important stage of the company’s development.”
As well as purchasing new equipment, Ben has also taken part in two Go Digital Newcastle online marketing masterclasses, covering search engine optimisation (SEO) and effective web site design from a customer-focused point of view.
“I found the masterclasses extremely useful. They coincided with a planned review of our on-line activities and updated my knowledge of effective design so much that the company decided to redesign our website,” said Ben.
Cllr Michael Johnson, Newcastle City Council Deputy Cabinet Member for Skills, Business and Enterprise, said Biosignatures’ experience was evidence that innovative local businesses could gain a lot from Go Digital Newcastle
“Every company can benefit from brushing up its digital skills – a company such as Biosignatures has the ability to reach out to the world, and online marketing is an ideal route.
“I’d encourage as many Newcastle businesses as possible to take a look at the business support programme and find out how it can help them – it’s free, and it can provide help in many ways.
“As well as help with the purchase of essential equipment Biosignatures was able to tap into expert knowledge that will help this busy company spread the word about its work even further,” said Cllr Johnson.
Go Digital Newcastle is a funded by BDUK and run by Newcastle City Council. It provides business support, grants for IT equipment, and Connection Vouchers worth up to £3,000 for connection to superfast broadband.
Connection vouchers are also available to eligible companies in Gateshead and North Tyneside.
Biosignatures benefited from the initiative’s business support programme, which is funded by ERDF.