The field of lateral flow diagnostics is growing rapidly, with many innovative applications now ranging from the identification of toxins in food to plant pathogen detection; they have come a long way from their most famous role in the home pregnancy test.
Digitization is a trend threading many disciplines, and lateral flow is no exception.
Here, we share a Q&A with Dave Taylor, co-founder and chief operating officer of Bond Digital Health, a UK-based life sciences company that develops app and cloud technology solutions for lateral flow diagnostics.
What is the story behind Bond Digital Health?
Bond Digital Health was born out of the experiences of an “expert patient”, its founder Ian Bond. Ian, a retired businessman, wanted a way to manage his COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and so started making a personalized self-management data record of his condition. He invited me to get involved and together we developed this idea into a digital platform that would enable patients to better monitor their own chronic conditions and obtain evidence-led care.
This core technology provided the foundation for Bond Digital Health’s full range of products and projects and now supports other developers in clinical trials and in bringing products to market. We established the company at the Life Sciences Hub Wales in Cardiff and grew quickly, achieving more than £500,000 of commercial contracts in our first nine months alone.
Today Bond Digital Health employs seven full-time members of staff as well as several consultants and has fostered a range of successful collaborative partnerships with businesses, academic institutions and government institutions.
What made you decide to focus the business on lateral flow diagnostics?
It started when we worked on a project with Mologic Ltd, a world-renowned innovator in point-of-care diagnostics and the lateral flow industry. Mologic required a digital platform consisting of a patient-facing mobile app and cloud data management for a new quantitative diagnostic test, so we remodeled our technology to better meet their needs.
We decided to test the waters by attending lateral flow industry events and conferences, and soon realised that many test developers and manufacturers were looking to add digital connectivity to take their tests to the next level. These companies also recognized that we could provide an affordable, compliant and scalable solution, highlighting a huge unmet need in an expanding market. Now the business is focused on serving the lateral flow market almost exclusively.
Lateral flow is quickly becoming the preferred solution for rapid in-field testing and patient self-testing because of its ability to give accurate, lab-quality results without needing expensive equipment. The lateral flow diagnostics market is currently worth over US $6 bn and is growing rapidly. With more than 2 billion tests sold every year it is expected to reach US $8.7 bn by 2023.
We are proud that Bond Digital Health is the only company in the world offering bespoke digital solutions specifically for lateral flow and connecting the entire industry – test developers, reader manufacturers and scientists – with their end-user groups.
How will your digital technology make a difference to lateral flow diagnostics?
Lateral flow is an established technology that up until recently saw relatively little development. Today, with the demand for rapid accurate point-of-care testing growing, lateral flow test developers are looking for new ways to innovate and new products to bring to market.
Lateral flow reader systems that turn simple yes/no tests into quantifiable tests are growing in popularity. But the next step is to use digital connectivity to really enhance their capability. It is no exaggeration to say that adding digital connectivity to lateral flow will transform single-use diagnostic tests into valuable resources for health practitioners that will not only save time and money but also enable global mapping of infectious diseases.
Bond has developed a digital system for lateral flow that offers complete end-to-end connectivity. Our apps, for iOs and Android, can connect to any lateral flow reader system. Additional patient data can be captured by the app, via a questionnaire for example, giving a more holistic view of a patient’s overall health. This data can then be sent via the cellular network or Wi-Fi to the cloud where it can be stored securely. Clinicians can then access geo-tagged, time-stamped data, analyse it using our data analytics dashboard, and provide a diagnosis remotely.
On a larger scale the system allows big data aggregation and management, which is hugely valuable for clinicians, scientists and businesses, enabling visual mapping of results such as disease outbreaks, enabling timely intervention and improved control.
We are determined that whatever technology we create, whatever solution we offer, the end result must always be to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and society.
How can you ensure your digital solutions are compliant and secure?
We have extensive regulatory expertise and we have invested a lot of time and money over the last couple of years ensuring that our products and services are both compliant and secure. To operate in this sphere, you must adhere to strict Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) regulations and standards, and we meet these, including ISO 13485 and IEC 62304. We are also compliant with international data security regulations, including GDPR (EU) and HIPAA (USA).
What are some of the projects you are currently working on?
We are currently working on a range of digital connectivity projects for companies that produce lateral flow readers. These companies want to integrate our platform into their reader devices to enhance their technology. These are very exciting projects with key companies in the sector that could change the perception of lateral flow diagnostics. We are also involved in a major project with several academic and business partners to develop a diagnostic test for bovine tuberculosis. Bovine TB is a global problem that costs governments and the agricultural industry billions of dollars every year. Producing a rapid and reliable point-of-care test to identify outbreaks sooner could be a game-changer for farming.
What does the future hold for Bond Digital Health?
We are currently in the middle of a series A investment round for a seven-figure sum, which will allow us to triple the size our development team to service the increasing demand for digital connectivity. The investment will be a significant boost to Bond Digital Health, allowing us to change the company structure, expand our offer and cement our place as the go-to connectivity technology provider for the lateral flow diagnostics sector.
Dave Taylor is co-founder and chief operating officer of Bond Digital Health, a UK-based life sciences company that develops app and cloud technology solutions for lateral flow diagnostics.