Doctors who suspect that a patient has had a myocardial infarction or is suffering from another heart disorder request a blood test to measure troponin, a protein released into the bloodstream by damaged heart muscle.
According to Lars Halvor Langmoen, CEO of SpinChip, an Oslo point-of-care (POC) start-up, this presents a dilemma. Doctors can order a POC troponin test taking 10-20 minutes, but offering unreliable results. Or they can wait an hour or two to get reliable results from a lab. And for cardiologists, time is muscle. The longer the wait, the greater the risk of further heart damage.
“Doctors in hospitals here in Norway are generally not comfortable using point-of-care instruments because in so many cases they can’t detect heart attacks. They basically don’t trust the level of detection they have today,” said Langmoen.
Like Coffee Cartridges
Langmoen was part of management at solar manufacturer NorSun, Norway’s fastest growing technology company. He likens the SpinChip business model to the one that led to coffee makers using cartridges for different coffee flavors.
The secret is in the proprietary system developed by SpinChip founder and POC guru Stig Morten Borch. It provides “high-sensitivity” tests that can measure low concentrations of troponin and other targets.
SpinChip uses dual-axis centrifugation of the assay cartridges. The closed assay cartridge is fed into the instrument, automatically positioned and locked off-center in the rotor disc. The orientation of the cartridge relative to the centrifugal force is altered bi-directionally while spinning.
The SpinChip instrument contains two complementary optical readout systems. The spectral system plays a key role in real-time control of cartridge orientation and content. It also uses surface reflectance to read color intensity and transmittance to determine the optical density of liquids. The genuine fluorescent readout system allows for high sensitivity measurements.
“The combination of two complementary readouts makes the platform cover a wide sensitivity range and [offers] broad flexibility in the use of assaying readout principles,” said Langmoen.
“Our system forces reactions to happen more quickly, with better quality and sensitivity, It makes it possible to perform a broader range of analyses using one platform, and to transfer analyses from laboratories to point of care without loss in quality. All analyses are performed within a few minutes using a small droplet of blood and at a unit cost significantly lower than competing point-of-care platforms.”
Next-gen rapid testing
SpinChip has its eye on next-generation, rapid point-of-care tests that deliver results comparable to labs.
We try to do the most challenging first.
“Troponin is the Holy Grail,” said Langmoen. “There is a lot of money in troponin analysis. If you can do troponin at POC at the same level as labs, you can do anything. It’s very, very attractive. We try to do the most challenging first because then we know we can do the rest.”
The company previously worked on a quick two-minute test for C-reactive protein (CRP), a test to measure inflammation.
Since hospitals are looking to buy a portfolio of heart tests, SpinChip expects to start development in 2018 of a test for NT-proBNP, a peptide used to help detect, diagnose, and evaluate the severity of heart failure.
SpinChip aims for market introduction in late 2019. Other tests are expected to follow.