Amsterdam-based medical equipment manufacturer Royal Philips is teaming up with Banyan Biomarkers, a San Diego-based biotechnology firm, to create a handheld blood test to help physicians more quickly diagnose concussions, potentially improving outcomes.
Since its founding in 2002, Banyan has focused on developing a blood test that identifies certain biomolecules indicative of neurological injuries. The collaboration with Philips will create the first-of-its-kind test for use in Philips' Minicare I-20 system, a handheld test analyzer that will launch in Europe during the second quarter. The financial terms of the Philips-Banyan deal were not disclosed.
Philips plans to also submit the Minicare device for FDA approval, with hopes that it will launch in 2017, said Marcel van Kasteel, CEO of the company's Handheld Diagnostics business. The device is initially being used to test for Troponin, a diagnostic marker for heart attacks and other heart disorders.
Physicians currently evaluate patients for concussion by testing their reaction time, attention, memory and other neurocognitive factors. CT or MRI scans can be used to evaluate a patient, but it can take a long time for a hospital patient to get an imaging appointment and results can show up normal even though a concussion occurred.
The hope is that the device will allow physicians to more quickly diagnose traumatic brain injury, van Kasteel said. Even if a blood test for concussions was already available, physicians can easily wait an hour to receive blood tests back from a lab, van Kasteel said. Philip's handheld system would be able to complete a test within 10 minutes using 35-45 milliliters of blood.
“It's really about speed,” van Kasteel said. “The faster you can make a diagnosis, the better you can treat patients or send them home.”
Philips is focusing on the device's application in the emergency department, but van Kasteel said it could be beneficial to sports trainers and other professionals who need to quickly evaluate individuals for brain injuries outside of the hospital. The U.S.Defense Department seemingly believes it could also help on the battlefield, as it funded Banyan's research.
Prompt follow-up after a concussion has been linked to better outcomes, said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital who specializes in traumatic brain injury. A rapid blood test could help in expediting the diagnosis, said Glatter, who is a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Researchers have looked at using the total tau protein and glial fibrillary acidic protein as diagnostic markers for concussion, but neither has proven particularly useful in the field as of yet. Banyan, which did not return a request for comment, has identified two proteins that “rapidly appear in the blood of patients soon after injury,” according to the Philips announcement.
Physicians will be able to more swiftly and accurately diagnose concussions if they have multiple sources of information, Glatter said.
“We have to approach these patients systematically, and having that multimodal approach can be extremely useful and is long overdue,” Glatter said.
Concussion care has been a hot topic in the U.S. as of late, thanks to a recent movie starring Will Smith that focuses on a Pittsburgh doctor who warns the NFL about the dangers of football-related head trauma. The NFL last February appointed Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, president of Brigham and Women's Hospital, as its first chief health and medical adviser.