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Proteus to trial smart pills in UK

Published on 11/03/14 at 08:20am
Smart pill image
Proteus' ingestible sensor invention

A US biotech specialising in smart pills is to set up its first manufacturing site in the UK creating 200 jobs, and is to begin a major trial of its products.

Proteus Digital Health will partner with NHS England and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to see whether its ingestible sensors - taken with drugs - more effectively monitor whether NHS patients follow their medicines regime.

Smart pills - or digital medicines - provide information about what medication has been taken, plus how well a patient’s body is responding via a plaster-like patch the patient wears.

The government estimates that unused prescription medicines cost the NHS in England up to £300 million, so there could be benefits in seeing how people use their medicines.

A variety of groups will be involved with Proteus, including the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), which is a collaboration between universities, teaching hospitals and Academic Health Science Networks in the north of England.

The Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN), Oxford University, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and Oxford Academic Health Science Network (OAHSN) will also be involved.

Proteus chief executive Andrew Thompson called it an “important milestone in the emergence of the global digital medicines industry”. “We are honoured to be working with leaders who are positioning the UK and NHS at the forefront of digital innovation in healthcare by delivering tools that empower patients and their families,” he added.

Proteus’ decision to locate a manufacturing site in the UK has been welcomed by government. “It’s proof that our work to attract high-tech business to the UK is providing real benefits for people at home, [which is] all part of our long term economic plan,” said prime minister David Cameron.

The deal was facilitated by NHS England and the Life Science Investment Organisation (LSIO) of UKTI. “This partnership will clearly benefit patients, the NHS and the economy,” said Miles Ayling, director of innovation at NHS England.

Research group Frost & Sullivan this month predicted a surge in smart pills, with a peak in new products between 2018 and 2020 as technological advances in minimally invasive and remote-controlled devices drive the market.

Proteus’ Helius product, designed to tell patients and carers whether medicines have been taken, has already been sold in the UK.  

Adam Hill