Prof. Dr. Jürgen Popp, IPHT Jena: Diagnosis at the speed of light
The research project “FastDiagnosis” was successful in developing a device to quickly and inexpensively diagnose sepsis. Prof. Dr. Jürgen Popp is director of the Institute of Physical Chemistry (IPC) at the University of Jena and scientific director of the Institute of Photonic Technology (IPHT) in Jena.
1. A new combined diagnostic process based on optical technologies promises a quick identification of the pathogens responsible for sepsis. What methods were used here and is it now possible to detect the pathogens?
Jürgen Popp: In the future, it could be possible to diagnose sepsis with a combined process of test strips and optical spectroscopy. Using a lateral flow immunoassay, similar to a pregnancy test, it is possible to detect endogenous molecules which are produced or neutralized during sepsis, providing an indication of the course of the disease. The device, which was developed together with our partners R-Biopharm AG and QIAGEN Lake Constance GmbH, displays a result indicating the probability of the presence of sepsis and conveying treatment strategies.
The second method used is the Raman spectroscopic identification of pathogens. This optical process enables the identification of specific bacteria independently of their bacterial culture using molecular printing. The Bio Particle Explorer device was developed in close cooperation with the Leibniz Institute for Photonic Technologies (IPHT), the Friedrich-Schiller University Jena and rap. ID Particle Systems GmbH.
2. The name of the project FastDiagnosis suggests it, but how long does it really take to get a diagnosis? And what values does the diagnosis result include?
Jürgen Popp: We were able to reduce the time spent for bacterial detection to a few hours. In the past, at least one day was needed to clearly identify pathogens in body fluids—that is often too late for a suitable treatment. Doctors can only save patients' lives if they rapidly administer the right antibiotic therapy.
The process that we have developed gives us a head start that can be life-saving in treating sepsis. In addition, the presence of bacteria has been proven only in approx. 20 percent of the conventional blood samples. By combining test strips, which provide evidence of sepsis, and Raman spectroscopy, it should be possible to improve this result.
3. What are the next steps? The cooperation between the partners involved seems to be going well.
Jürgen Popp: In order to routinely use the new diagnosis, it is now very important to test both technologies on a daily basis in hospital or surgery environment. Therefore, we are currently planning further follow-up projects in this direction. It is worth noting that due to the highly interdisciplinary character of biophotonics, collaborative research has proven to be an indispensable strategy for successful commercialization of the ideas and principles that have been developed.
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has invested more than EUR 170 million in the biophotonics research branch since 2002. Over 150 partners from science and industry implement the latest scientific findings in solutions suited for daily use. Optical technologies are one of the key driving forces of medical engineering.
4. This year's LASER World of PHOTONICS will focus on biophotonics among other areas. What can people visiting the trade fair expect to see and hear from you on this topic in Munich from June 22 to 25?
Jürgen Popp: Biophotonics research is one of the driving forces of medical engineering and the associated market is developing rapidly. The biophotonics market study carried out by AT-Kearny on behalf of the BMBF is predicting a market volume of EUR 85.5 billion for the entire biophotonics market by 2020.
The latest German product developments will be presented at the LASER World of PHOTONICS in Munich. The Biophotonics exhibits will illustrate innovations from the fields of Point-of-Care (POC) diagnostics and high-resolution microscopy. Together with Messe München and the IPHT the Biophotonics research program will contribute a presentation on “Visions for Future Diagnostics—Infectious Diseases”. The forum on Point-of-Case Diagnostics and medical rapid tests will take place on Tuesday June 23, at 10:00 at booth B3.561.
Thank you for the interview.