NORTH-EAST scientists have signed a contract for a test that could help quick and accurate diagnosis of the most common cancer in men.

Durham City-based FScan Limited has agreed a worldwide exclusive licensing deal with Glide Pharma for its technology that uses light to measure fluid samples from the prostate gland.

The test identifies citrate levels which can signal the onset and progression of prostate cancer, which every year kills more than 10,000 men in the UK.

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The breakthrough technology, which can give an accurate test in about a minute, was developed by Professor David Parker and Dr Robert Pal working in Durham University’s Department of Chemistry.

Unlike existing tests for the condition the Durham University technology is non invasive and does not require a pre-test, such as taking a blood sample.

Almost a quarter of male cancers in the UK are diagnosed as prostate cancer. Early and more accurate diagnosis could help save health services billions of pounds.

At the end of this month, clinical studies at UCL Hospital London led by Mr Mark Emberton, a renowned consultant clinical urologist., will be available, before a potential roll out across clinics in the US and Europe.

The licensing deal includes an upfront fee, development as well as payments and royalties on future product sales.

Prof Parker said: “What is pleasing is that some fundamental academic research can now be properly assessed for commercial exploitation and may, in time, offer real benefit to patients.”

FScan Ltd was set up in 2008 to help exploit the commercial potential of breakthroughs made by the University's research teams.

Dr Pal thanked the support of local agencies which has included funding from the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria.

Glide Pharma has plans to adopt the technology developed in Durham in the US to help identify and measure the amount of a chemical substance in biological specimens.

In the longer-term, it intends to create an accurate prostate cancer diagnostic test, pursuing regulatory approval both in the US and Europe.

Dr Mark Carnegie-Brown, Glide Pharma’s chief executive, said: “We believe this innovative technology has the potential to revolutionise the prostate cancer diagnostic market, where there is a clear need for an accurate, rapid non-invasive test. With our existing portfolio of therapeutics and vaccines making excellent progress, we plan to accelerate the development of this potentially important diagnostic.”

Over the past decade, Durham University has become a hotbed for spin-out companies. Two have floated on the stock market within the past year – scanner maker Kromek and Advanced Graphene Materials. Other high-profile companies which started life at the University include Reinnervate, specialising in cell growth technologies, and Surface Innovations, part of the P2i Group which is world leader in liquid repellent technology.