Local academic’s research leads to medical advance

Dr Kelly Moffitt (left) and Dr Lorraine Martin (centre) from ProAx-SiS, Queen's University Belfast, pictured with Julie-Ann O'Hare of main sponsor Bank of Ireland at the NISP 25k Awards.
Dr Kelly Moffitt (left) and Dr Lorraine Martin (centre) from ProAx-SiS, Queen's University Belfast, pictured with Julie-Ann O'Hare of main sponsor Bank of Ireland at the NISP 25k Awards.

A Ballyclare woman is playing a lead role in developing breakthrough medical products which will enable patients to monitor their own health at home.

Dr Kelly Moffitt works at the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast and is Chief Operations Officer of ProAx-SiS - a university spin-out company.

ProAx-SiS is developing point-of-care diagnostic tests which are small disposable dip-sticks similar to pregnancy tests. They can be used not only by healthcare professionals in the clinic, but also by patients at home, allowing them to monitor and take control of their own conditions and healthcare.

Originally from Jordanstown, Dr Moffitt attended Richmond Lodge Grammar School in Belfast and has a PhD in Biomolecular Sciences. She specialises in proteases in respiratory diseases and has been carrying out research into Cystic Fibrosis and other respiratory conditions for more than 12 years.

“Our first to market product called NEATstik is being specifically developed for Cystic Fibrosis patients. People with Cystic Fibrosis are particularly prone to recurrent lung infections and, with each infection can spend up to 14 days in hospital having a course of IV antibiotics. Our test will alert the patient to an impending lung infection before they have any symptoms. This will allow for early intervention in patient treatment plans and reduce the number of hospitalisations per year. In addition to patients being able to be stay at home for longer, a reduction in patient hospitalisations will substantially save costs to the NHS,” she explained.

ProAx-SiS received funding from Invest NI, Medical Research Council and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (USA) for the initial research and development into the new technology.

The innovative diagnostic test kits scooped ProAx-SiS the £10,000 first prize at the recent Bank of Ireland-sponsored Northern Ireland Science Park 25k Awards held at Titanic Belfast.

Dr Moffitt, who leads the company alongside Dr Lorraine Martin, Chief Executive Officer, and Professor Brian Walker, Chief Scientific Officer, is delighted with the success of the product and is hoping it can be developed to monitor other conditions.

“We were delighted to be the overall winner of the 25k awards and are very excited about the potential that our technology has in changing personal healthcare,” she said.

It’s hoped the test will also become available for the monitoring of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

“We have a number of other tests in the pipeline using the technology we have developed. These tests will detect biomarkers for early warning screening in cardiology and cancer.

“We are currently in talks with major investors and have been collaborating with a number of clinicians in the UK, Ireland, Europe and USA. During the next two years our products will be undergoing further validation through clinical trials and we will be increasing our research and development aspect,” Dr Moffitt added.

The company’s developments can be followed on Twitter - @ProAxSiS