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Press release

Press release

Researchers awarded major funding for development and commercialization of noninvasive diagnostic test for inflammatory bowel disease

Changes observed in the composition of intestinal cells may be leveraged for the detection of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A commercialization initiative by Åbo Akademi University in Finland has secured substantial funding from both Business Finland and the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The objective is to advance research findings towards a diagnostic test for patient use.

Assistant Professor and leader of her InFLAMES research group at Åbo Akademi University, Diana Toivola, has, together with her team, identified a protein named keratin 7, which is found in the colon of patients with IBD but absent in healthy subjects. At the end of 2023, Business Finland granted over 470 000 euro to explore the commercial potential of these findings. Simultaneously, the Novo Nordisk Foundation awarded the initiative a grant of 950 000 Danish kroner (127 000 euro) for further research aimed at commercialization.

IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, has significantly increased in prevalence over recent decades. Approximately one percent of the population in Finland suffers from this disease. There is no definitive cure available, which makes early detection crucial for managing symptoms. A challenge with different intestinal diseases lies in their similar symptoms. Therefore, better biomarkers are needed to distinguish IBD from other conditions which are less severe or require different treatments.

With the funding received, the project can now leverage commercialization expertise, a resource not always available within traditional academic research groups. Starting in 2024, Jaakko Korpela, bringing extensive experience in commercialization and entrepreneurship within the startup ecosystem, has joined the project as the project leader.

“This substantial new funding brings academic research findings closer to the patients. With this funding, we can delve into the regulatory aspects required for clinical testing, work on assay development, collaborations with diagnostic manufacturers, and advance on commercializing the test. The project aims to develop a noninvasive, rapid test for IBD from patient stool samples. In our recently published study using a knockout animal model, we demonstrated that measuring keratins in stool samples is a reliable method to assess their levels in the intestinal wall, ” says senior researcher and recipient of Novo Nordisk Foundation Pilot Innovator funding Lauri Polari.

These findings have been published in American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology. The publication can be found here: https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpgi.00140.2023


Further information: 

Lauri Polari, senior researcher, Åbo Akademi University
Telephone: +358 505959147
E-mail: lauri.polari(a)abo.fi