It started with some trips to Bunnings and Jaycar for materials to build a prototype gut health tracker, and now a team of researchers are on a quest to commercialise a tool to translate tummy rumbles.
“There were a lot of wires sticking out [in the first prototype], but it was enough to get proof of principle,” Noisy Guts chief executive Dr Josephine Muir says.
Muir will spend 2020 working towards Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval for the Noisy Guts belt, a technology which is the brain child of Professor Barry Marshall, gastroenterologist and Nobel Laureate.
Over the past few years a team of researchers at the University of Western Australia, including Muir and project manager Dr Mary Webberley, have found correlations between sounds from the gut and the presence of gut disorders.
Noisy Guts is aiming to be a top diagnostic tool for conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is a wearable belt with four sensors, which is placed around the stomach to record and track gut noises and uses software with artificial intelligence to track patterns.
Muir says the team’s research has shown digestive systems make sounds to a regular timetable.
“We were able to understand there is a 90 minute house keeping process, from when you start food,” she says.
Recording these sounds and noticing anomalies can help diagnose disorders, she says.
The project has come a long way from the DIY prototypes of a few years ago and the startup is now completing trials with patients using six standardised belts.
Noisy Guts has signed an exclusive licence agreement with the University of Western Australia to commercialise the product and will continue patient trials this year as it moves towards TGA approval.
The project has so far received more than $2 million of grant and philanthropic funding including from the federal government’s biomedical translation bridge program.
Muir says the path to commercialising a scientifically-backed tool for digestive disorders requires significant capital, however.
“It’s important that it’s science and that we have our credibility, making sure it is evidence and research based,” she says.
Around one in five Australians experience symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome at some point in their lifetime, according to the Gastroenterological Society of Australia. It’s a condition which can cause bloating, pain and and changes in bowel movements.
Despite the prevalence of it and other gut disorders, there is limited scope for diagnosis beyond tools like colonoscopies, Muir says.
It’s important that startups work towards science-backed technology because too many patients try everything from “snake oil to psychics” to get treatment, she says.
“When we’re talking to potential customers, we’re devastated by their stories. From bleaching their guts to drinking litres of boiling water, there are all sorts of strange sources [giving treatment suggestions].”
Noisy Guts is also hoping that in the long term it can be a monitoring tool, offering those with gut conditions the chance to test whether treatments are helping them or not.
The team is on the hunt for more capital this year so it can move towards approval processes as quickly as possible. The most important thing is to translate the prototypes into something evidence-based and useful, Muir says.
“How exciting will it be to get this blue sky idea on the market so that people can use it?”
Source: Thanks smh.com