Innovative Odor-Reader Set To Help Gastro-Intestinal Diseases

Armen Hareyan's picture

Gastro-intestinal diseases afflict over four billion adults and children each year.

The consequences are enormous " millions of deaths in the developing world, particularly amongst children. While in the UK outbreaks of diseases such as clostridium difficile in hospital wards can be devastating.

Now, thanks to a pioneering new technology developed by two researchers from Bristol (Chris Probert and Norman Ratcliffe), winners of the University of Bristol's 35,000 New Enterprise Competition, early diagnosis could lead to real health benefits for millions of people and help prevent spreading of infectious disease. The first prize of 15,000 was awarded to the researchers at the University's annual Enterprise Dinner last night, seeing them beat tough competition from eight other finalists.

Delays in diagnosing gastro-intestinal diseases can lead to patients being ill for longer, some may die, many will cost more to treat and infections spread to other people. For example, in England and Wales there are over 50,000 cases of Clostridium Difficile (the latest 'superbug') each year: this infection prolongs hospitalisation, is associated with high morbidity and mortality as well as costing the NHS 200 million annually.

Chris Probert and Norman Ratcliffe have developed Odor-Reader, a device able to rapidly diagnose disease by 'reading' the odour of biological fluids including stool and urine. It enables the gasses emitted from faeces to be analysed within a few hours leading to rapid, inexpensive diagnosis.

Second prize was awarded to a team of researchers from the University's School of Chemistry and Department of Physics (Dr Neil Fox, Dr Gareth Fuge & Dr Suzanne Furkert), who received 5,000 for Light Materials Ltd. Light Materials will develop a new type of solar energy-to-electricity converter that is cheaper to produce and easier to operate than those currently available. The new device will form the heart of systems to generate electricity for homes and businesses. Also, the new converter has the potential to be used in large numbers in concentrated solar power stations, that are beginning to be built in the 'sun belt' countries.

As well as securing the 5,000 prize, Light Materials also won the Timms-Smith Award for Best Chemistry entry. The Timms-Smith Award, which is supported by BOC Edwards, aims to recognise the achievements of Dr Peter Timms and Bob Smith whose scientific collaborations over many years led to the commercialisation of a gas abatement system for purifying waste gas streams.


For the first time in the competition's history, a 3,000 Best Social Enterprise award was presented to Bristol Buggy. Designed by UBHT staff (Jenny Anstead and Peter Smithson), Bristol Buggy is a transportation trolley designed to accommodate a child in full plaster cast after orthopaedic surgery.

The Undergraduate wild-card prize of 1,000 went to A2B Navigation Solutions " a transport navigation system accessed via mobile phone technology.

Two other entries were highly commended; The Petal Collection, an affordable range of organic and herbal beauty care products won 3,000 plus free legal advice worth a further 3,000 from Osborne Clarke. TalkTone, a mandarin self-teaching software system was also highly commended, winning 3,000 and six months rent-free office space in the Bristol SETsquared Acceleration Centre.

This year's competition entries were judged by a panel of experts from the sponsoring organisations including Bristol City Council, BOC Edwards, Business West, Deloitte, Fortis Bank, IP Group, STMicroelectronics, Osborne Clarke and United Bristol Healthcare (NHS) Trust.

Dr. Neil Bradshaw, Director of Enterprise at the University of Bristol, commented: "It is pleasing to see the high calibre of this year's competition winners. The standard of entries was extremely high and it was a tough decision for our panel of experts."

Guests attending the prestigious award dinner, sponsored by SPark " the Bristol and Bath Science Park, saw each finalist present their entry as well as having the opportunity to network with key players in the local enterprise community.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Eric Thomas said: "Our annual Enterprise dinner showcases the full range of the University's Enterprise activities: from entrepreneurship training and support; to technology transfer and new company acceleration. I am proud to be able to share our success with our partners from the wider business community."

Source: University Of The West Of England