Winner of the Emerging Technologies Competition 2014
Case study: September 2016
Iron-deficiency anaemia is the largest nutritional deficiency in the world, with one child in sub-Saharan Africa dying every 25 minutes from the consequences of this disorder. The most common treatment includes oral supplements of soluble iron-salts which cause significant side effects such as diarrhoea and gastro-intestinal infection and inflammation – particularly detrimental in women and children from resource-poor areas.
Professor Jonathan Powell, Dr Dora Pereira and the ‘iron’ team at the MRC have developed a nanoparticulate form of iron, called IHAT, which can be absorbed easily from the gut without causing these adverse effects.
In 2014 the team had completed early clinical work but had been unsuccessful in securing the funding needed for a clinical trial. They entered the competition to achieve greater visibility for IHAT and to receive strategic advice from key players in industry on how to progress.
Winning the competition gave the IHAT team a chance to be mentored by pharmaceutical giant GSK. GSK advised them on target markets, product development, business strategy, regulatory aspects, and implementation of medicines in developing countries.
“As IHAT was in the development stage, the partnership with GSK was very useful to help us delineate our strategy going forward,” says Dr Dora Pereira, Principal Investigator, University of Cambridge (previously Senior Investigator Scientist, MRC).
GSK also provided input in a number of funding bids to finance clinical trials with IHAT and, in 2015, Dr Pereira and the MRC Unit in the Gambia successfully secured $1.7m from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant, awarded under the Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenge New Interventions for Global Health Pilot Awards Scheme, is funding a field trial to test the efficacy and safety of IHAT in young children living in the most deprived areas of the Gambia. Dr Pereira has now moved to the University of Cambridge - Wellcome Trust Cambridge Centre for Global Health Research - and is leading the trial with frequent field trips to the Gambia. The trial will run until the end of 2017 and results are expected in early 2018.
Winning the competition gave us greater visibility with funding bodies such as the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust and gave these organisations enough confidence in our technology to short-list us. This is the first crucial step in securing substantial funds to conduct the clinical trials we need.
The publicity generated from winning the competition led to increased commercial interest in IHAT and the team were contacted by several companies interested in knowing more about the technology. As a result, the IHAT technology is currently being reviewed by a number of companies with a view to potentially licencing the technology and associated IP.
What’s next for IHAT
If IHAT is successful in the trial, there will be the opportunity to secure further funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This will be used to conduct the trials needed to support a market authorisation and to help place IHAT as an oral iron supplement in not-for-profit markets, where the need for a safe iron supplement is most pressing.
IHAT technology... two years on
Gates Foundation Funding
Received $1.7m under the Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenge New Interventions for Global Health Pilot Awards Scheme
Conducting two clinical trails in the Gambia with funding from the Gates Foundation and MRC Technology
GSK provided on-going strategic advice and input to their funding bids