Press Release – Canterbury Scientific
Canterbury Scientific has embarked on a major study that could identify high risk pre-eclampsia patients early on in pregnancy and potentially improve the prognosis and survival rate for the 3% of women and unborn babies worldwide that develop the …Canterbury Scientific Invests in Breakthrough Pre-eclampsia Study
New Zealand research could save the lives of mothers and babies around the world
Christchurch, 7 March 2012 – Canterbury Scientific has embarked on a major study that could identify high risk pre-eclampsia patients early on in pregnancy and potentially improve the prognosis and survival rate for the 3% of women and unborn babies worldwide that develop the condition.
Pre-eclampsia is one of the top three causes of maternal death, resulting in approximately 70,000 maternal and 500,000 foetal deaths globally each year. It is indicated by high blood pressure as well as protein in the urine – symptoms which resemble many other conditions and make it very difficult to diagnose. Causes are unclear and patients often do not feel ill until it is severe enough to be life-threatening.
Currently clinicians monitor mothers-to-be throughout the term, looking for signs of the condition as it starts to develop – usually around 20-32 weeks – and hoping to catch it early enough to treat it effectively. A new test based on the Canterbury Scientific research may enable much earlier detection and allow doctors and midwives to adjust patient care to improve outcomes for mothers and babies.
Canterbury Scientific’s two-year research project, in partnership with Canterbury Health Laboratories and the University of Otago, Christchurch, follows on from work conducted by Cambridge University Professor and Canterbury Scientific director Robin Carrell who has been mapping the protein ‘angiotensinogen’. Carrell observed that the oxidised form of angiotensinogen was more prevalent in women who were prone to developing pre-eclampsia. The findings were detailed in his paper, “A redox switch in angiotensinogen modulates angiotensin release”, which was published in the journal Nature in 2010.
Prof Carrell hypothesised that the protein contained a pre-eclampsia trigger switch, and saw an opportunity to conduct further study with their Christchurch research partners to investigate whether their suspicions were correct. The team is creating a robust diagnostic test method and confirming its ability to accurately predict cases by comparing diagnosed pre-eclampsia cases against a control group.
The company anticipates that the research may lead to a new product for diagnostic laboratory tests that will be made available through their international OEM customer network, in a similar fashion to their highly successful haemoglobin A1c control for diabetes monitoring. Canterbury Scientific commits 20% of their annual profit to research and development initiatives – and saw this as an ideal opportunity to drive the development of a marketable solution to a long-standing problem.
CEO Dr Neil Pattinson says, “Canterbury Scientific has invested in this research because we saw a real possibility to introduce a unique, high quality biological control product that could dramatically improve outcomes for pre-eclampsia sufferers. The project is perfectly aligned with our model to successfully commercialise new scientific research, and it’s a win-win for the company, for science, for patients.”
“The College of Midwives is strongly supportive of all research that aims to improve the ability of the maternity sector to respond effectively to distressing conditions such as pre-eclampsia. We congratulate Canterbury Scientific on their initiative and are delighted to see New Zealanders leading the way in trying to provide evidence based options for health professionals to access for mothers and their babies in their care,“ says Karen Guilliland, CEO, New Zealand College of Midwives.
Angiotensinogen is created in the liver and secreted into the blood stream, where it reacts with the enzyme renin that releases angiotensin I. This in turn reacts with “angiotensin converting enzyme” (ACE), producing angiotensin II – the molecule which constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure. Oxidation increases the production of angiotensin I and thus angiotensin II and therefore increases blood pressure – and women with a higher ratio of oxidised to reduced angiotensinogen in their blood will have a higher likelihood of developing pre-eclampsia. Blood pressure medications, commonly referred to as ACE inhibitors, block the production of angiotensin II.
Depending on the circumstances of the pregnancy, including severity of symptoms and foetal maturity, doctors may take steps to control blood pressure with anti-hypertensive medication (such as an ACE inhibitor) and allow the pregnancy to progress, or to intervene with induction of labour or a caesarean section. An early diagnosis can mean better treatment as well as more careful and constant monitoring to ensure the best possible outcome for mother and child.
About Canterbury Scientific
Canterbury Scientific Ltd is a privately owned New Zealand medical device company founded out of the Canterbury District Health Board in 1985 by directors Prof Robin Carrell, Bryce Hawkins and Dr Maurice Owen. The company specialises in the development and production of quality HbA1c controls for haematology and clinical biochemistry tests. In February 2011, Canterbury Scientific opened a new $1.2m facility in Christchurch which has been specially furbished with modern sophisticated systems, including temperature and humidity control, to provide an advanced and sustainable environment comparable to world class manufacturing practices. The company has also been named as one of the Technology Investment Network’s Top 10 Hot Emerging Companies of 2011.