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09 March 2023

Thermo Fisher Scientific collaboration offers potential for faster, more efficient analysis of samples from drug toxicity patients

King’s Forensics researchers have received cutting edge equipment to help them carry out research into drug toxicity as part of a partnership between the university, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust and scientific analytical equipment supplier Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Patient on hospital bed

A King’s team, led by Dr Vincenzo Abbate, Reader in Bioanalysis, King’s Forensics, and including Professors David Cowan and Paul Dargan, has been the recipient of state-of-the-art scientific equipment that will allow them to carry out drug toxicity research with the aim of improving diagnosis for patients presenting to a hospital Emergency Department (ED) with acute drug toxicity. Thanks to a newly inked partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientific, the team will work alongside the Clinical Research Vertical Marketing team, part of the Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry division, to make use of cutting-edge ambient ionisation mass spectrometry.

In November 2022, Thermo Fisher Scientific installed a Thermo Scientific™ VeriSpray™ PaperSpray ion source in the Franklin-Wilkins Building, Waterloo Campus. Alongside the novel VeriSpray™ system, the installation included a liquid chromatography system and the latest generation, high-sensitivity mass spectrometer in Dr Abbate’s research laboratory.

VeriSpray™ utilises a paperspray ionisation technique that offers a new method of analysing samples of biological fluids, such as blood, to identify and quantify the concentration of analytes within a sample. A high voltage shock is applied to the sample that has been spotted onto paper, ionising the sample molecules which enter into the mass spectrometer with minimal sample preparation involved.

I am delighted that this translational healthcare research using sophisticated mass spectrometry is being supported by this important agreement with Thermo Fisher, my colleagues at King’s and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust, which we anticipate will have international impact.

Dr Vincenzo Abbate, Reader in Bioanalysis, King’s Forensics

The team will test the equipment’s ability to identify and quantify the level of drug analytes, both when they are a pure substance and when they are present in samples of blood. The researchers will investigate the applicability of using this technique to provide fast and accurate measurements with small samples of blood, especially its viability for hospitals, particularly ED presentations.

The current project is the first step in looking at the potential for installations like the ones provided by Thermo Fisher Scientific to enable EDs to provide point-of-care testing for patients with acute drug toxicity. This would mean having medical tests completed near the patient – within the same hospital – that could be administered by any healthcare professional, as opposed to sending samples to specialist laboratory professionals at a separate site. This could reduce the waiting time for results from multiple days to minutes, providing great potential for improving diagnosis for ED patients and enabling faster, more efficient care, for patients with acute drug toxicity.

Professor Dargan will support the collaboration with his knowledge and clinical experience of acute drug toxicity while Professor Cowan will contribute his extensive experience of pharmaceutical toxicology and drug misuse gained from running a world-famous anti-doping laboratory.

In this story

Vincenzo  Abbate

Reader in Bioanalysis