Chemistry against COVID: MediSieve tackling the virus inside and out
Over the past few weeks, COVID-19 has presented us with a common, formidable enemy, with some companies fundamentally changing their operations to help the fight.
This includes MediSieve, a London-based company, which has set out a vision to build a system capable of detecting a range of diseases.
Since its inception in 2015, MediSieve’s team of twelve – a mix of scientists, researchers, engineers and legal experts – has been developing a revolutionary filtration system similar to that of a dialysis machine to target and remove blood-borne pathogens such as harmful cells, bacteria, toxins and inflammatory cytokines. Using magnets, the system is able to specifically extract unwanted disease from the body by binding to the pathogen.
While there are numerous potential applications, MediSieve’s initial focus is on sepsis, cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and malaria.
Recognising similarities between the findings of recent studies into patients with the most serious cases of coronavirus and MediSieve’s existing research into sepsis, Chief Technology Officer Dr Cristina Blanco-Andujar has pivoted the team’s activity towards researching how the system can be used to help medical professionals treat patients more effectively.
Explaining the decision, Dr Blanco-Andujar said: “We were reading studies that said patients with the most serious forms of the virus and those that had sadly died had high levels of IL-6, a common inflammatory cytokine, which we’ve encountered in the past in our research into treating sepsis.
“Finding a way to effectively and rapidly target and remove this pathogen could be extremely beneficial in treatment. Current recommendations are either immunoblockers or suppressants but the problem with this is that they stay in the bloodstream, meaning the patient is immunosuppressed while they’re trying to fight an infection – which isn’t ideal.
“Using the technology developed by MediSieve means that treatment is tuned for a certain amount of time and then stops without having a lasting effect on the patient. It’s an exciting development and we’re actively exploring and accelerating our research so we can progress to clinical trials.”
To support the rapid acceleration of the technology, MediSieve has applied for funding schemes to progress the vital research and development required to bring the technology to the testing stage and in, in the not too distant future, a reality.
And in addition to switching the focus of the organisation’s research, Dr Blanco-Andujar and the team have been helping support local hospitals by donating excess PPE and using their 3D printers to provide NHS staff with 250 ear guards to ease the pressure of masks.
Dr Blanco-Andujar, who holds a degree in chemistry and a PhD from University College London, has been left hugely proud by the team’s flexibility and willingness to embrace new ways of working brought on by the pandemic, including home working and communication.
“I think we’re just realising that as a small business, we have the potential to contribute to society and help people who are fighting against – and who are suffering with – the virus.
“Certain things always seem impossible until you try, and in these extremely challenging times we’re seeing real innovation fuelled by the desire to make a difference.”