Diagnostics

Advanced Diagnostics and Analytics

The diagnostic value chain

The key to effective therapeutic interventions is often through precise and early diagnosis . Technologies have greatly advanced in the last few years through innovations in molecular diagnostics and personalised medicine. Austria has been at the forefront of these developments, from the discovery of biomarkers through to the manufacture of equipment for IVD diagnostics and the actual handling of specimens for analysis.

Right down the value chain, Austria is innovating in diagnostics. It’s the interplay between innovative start-ups, top notch research and global diagnostic companies that make Austria an interesting player in the field of diagnostics.

Biomarkers

Biobanks are collections of biological samples and their associated data, organised in a structured, readily analysable format. Academic biobanks for medical research typically contain tissue samples, blood and other body fluids, as well as cells and DNA samples of human origin. As research data from these samples can be linked with anonymized data from medical records, environmental exposure, lifestyle information and other medically relevant information, biobanks are considered invaluable resources for medical research. Within the last years Biobank Graz emerged as one of the largest clinical biobanks in Europe. Particular attention is paid to sample and data quality as well as to the protection of individual rights of donors. To foster medically relevant research discoveries, Biobank Graz supplies stored samples along with their anonymized data to biomedical scientists and researchers worldwide.

Biomarkers, which are measured in body fluids of patients, are the easiest and quickest way to evaluate the efficacy of therapies or to test a medical/biological hypothesis. Many of the newer biomarkers are cytokines or cytokine-like molecules involved in physiological regulation mechanisms, which are hard to detect by conventional methods (ELISA or FACS) because of their limited sensitivity. Fianostics in co-operation with Stratec consumables has decided to remedy that problem by developing a new platform technology that enables the development of high sensitivity fluorescence immunoassays. This will dramatically increase reproducibility and reliability of clinical studies with biomarkers

Biocrates Life Sciences has established itself as a leading company in the field of diagnostic biomarker research. The company identifies and quantifies endogenous metabolites in body fluids and tissue samples and further develops them into useful biomarkers. So far, a pipeline of metabolic biomarkers for cancer but also for diabetes and kidney diseases has been set up. Biocrates’ experience in biomarker discovery has resulted in the development of the first mass-spectrometry-based metabolomics kits, AbsoluteIDQ® p150 Kit and AbsoluteIDQ® p180 Kit. The kit pipeline is being extended by additional research kits. Beside its own biomarker pipeline the company is supporting other research organisations in the development of their biomarker panels.

Image analysis

TissueGnostics is a globally active Austrian company focusing on integrated solutions for high content and/or high throughput scanning and analysis of biomedical, veterinary, natural sciences and technical microscopy samples. TG has been focusing on "Personalized Medicine". TG scanning systems are currently based on versatile automated microscopy systems with or without image analysis capabilities. The company provides cutting-edge technology solutions, such as multispectral imaging and context-based image analysis as well as established features like Z-Stacking and Extended Focus. This is combined with a strong emphasis on automation, ease of use of all solutions and the production of publication-ready data.

Biosensors

DirectSens is a start-up company based in Klosterneuburg near Vienna, Austria. DirectSens is a company dedicated to the development of 3rd generation biosensors. Biosensors make use of enzymes that specifically detect a substance in a sample and convert it into a measurable signal. DirectSens developed an electrochemical lactose test strip that can be used in the dairy industry to monitor the manufacturing process and for quality control of lactose-free products. The DirectSens technology enables for the first time a fast and accurate measurement of these low lactose concentrations.

Molecular diagnostics

Genspeed Biotech was founded in fall 2016 as a spin-off company of Greiner Bio-One. The company develops, produces and distributes IVD-certified rapid testing solutions based on the patented Genspeed® technology. With its novel combination of microfluidics, miniaturised opto-electronics and automation Genspeed® enables the simultaneous detection of multiple analytes at the point of care within a few minutes. It may be used for nucleic acid-based genetic testing as well as for protein analyses. Thus, the platform facilitates the rapid identification of defined bacteria or viruses as well as the quantitation of certain biomarkers in blood or other biological material.

One in four Europeans suffers from allergies such as asthma or hayfever, which are often diagnosed with antiquated methods or not at all. In more than half of all patients, the diagnosis is insufficient. Macro Array Diagnostics is developing in-vitro diagnostics permitting the accurate and cost-efficient determination of type I allergies. The company’s technology facilitates cost-efficient production of allergy tests comprising a large number of allergens. These tests can be done in any clinical diagnostic laboratory. The first-generation allergen panel includes more than 280 parameters. Besides the most important allergen extracts, it also covers all clinically relevant molecular allergens. One analysis suffices to detect existing IgE antibodies against practically all common allergy triggers, thus rendering any prior restriction of antigenic preparations superfluous. MacroArray Diagnostics considers expanding its product range or offering licences for use in other fields.

Electrolytes are crucial for our health. The Tyrolian startup UriSalt is developing non-invasive tests for doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and self-testing that immediately analyse and monitor important body electrolytes from urine specimens. The first item on UriSalt’s agenda is to develop SODISENS, an affordable point-of-care test (POCT) for assessing the body’s sodium metabolism from urine. POCT indicates that these tests can be done outside conventional laboratory settings, for example in doctors’ surgeries or wards. The SODISENS test comprises a single-use urine test strip and a portable readout meter featuring software for analysis, display and data management. The test gives an instant result and is so easy to handle that it can also be performed by patients themselves. An app provides a direct link to the physician treating the patient. The great technical challenges are manufacturing a stable test strip and designing a portable readout meter. A prototype of the readout meter has been available since April 2018. The company subsequently plans to validate SODISENS in first clinical studies. UriSalt wants to use its proprietary core technology to develop more urine POCTs for other important electrolytes and to offer a comprehensive portfolio of non-invasive tests.

Lexogen‘s proprietary SQUARE technology presents a unique, hypothesis-free approach to reduce the complexity of the transcriptome and empowers Next Generation Sequencing technologies to sequence and quantify all splice variants in which genes are expressed. Lexogen’s SQUARE technology will provide unprecedented insight in molecular pathways.