A former University of Warwick student has launched a ground-breaking DNA test for heart conditions that will help to save lives.
Coventry-based entrepreneur Abdullah Sabyah, who runs start-up company Rightangled, has been backed financially by NHS England through the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN) and is being supported by the University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Ready programme to help bring the Heart DNA Test to market.
Business Ready has helped the firm through the planning stages, has supported it in accessing funding and has also assisted in getting the company’s product and testing system registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Abdullah, who has achieved both Honours and Masters degrees at the University of Warwick after moving to the area from Saudi Arabia, decided to research the use of DNA testing to see if people are predisposed to heart conditions and the treatments to use, when his colleague and business partner, Floriane Rousse-Marquet’s mother suffered five strokes.
His research showed that mapping DNA and also tracking people’s lifestyles provide strong evidence of whether people are likely to suffer from heart problems and what steps or medications to take.
The new testing product – a simple saliva collecting kit – coupled with a lifestyle and self-reported health information survey, is now being used by practitioners to help diagnose patients and also to decide which preventative medication would suit them best. It also means they can recommend any necessary lifestyle changes.
Members of the public are also able to order the kits and the results will be assessed by Rightangled’s own partner cardiologists or passed through to the patient’s own doctor.
As part of the support from Business Ready, the company was supported in the application for a grant from Coventry City Council’s Innovation Programme in order to help the business in its early stages.
Abdullah said: “My colleague, Floriane Rousse-Marquet, had seen her mother survive five strokes. She had stopped taking medicine because of the side effects it was having, so I wanted to research whether there was anything in her DNA that would tell us which medicine would work better.
“The research showed that you can see who is pre-disposed to a range of heart conditions as well as the propensity to respond differently to different treatments, based on genetic make-up.
“It works much better when you look at both their DNA and their lifestyle. You can also work out which medicines are best for each patient and if they need to change diet or lifestyle.
“While studying at the University of Warwick my supervisor, Prof Robert Old, encouraged me to pursue my passion for a rapid DNA detection device which we are working on in parallel to the Heart DNA test. His feedback and scientific critique helped us a lot through our initial stages of development.”
He added: “We have now launched the testing kit to practitioners and to the public – both online and in local pharmacies – but we couldn’t have done it without the support we’ve had from the University of Warwick Science Park.
“The Business Ready programme has helped us to tap into expert advice – including preparing for meetings with potential funders and clinical bodies. Alex Toft, an advisor on the programme, used his years of expertise in this field to help us apply for and be registered by the CQC, which is the ultimate endorsement of the work we are doing.
“The funding has been absolutely vital in helping to move forward with the business and we’ve also benefitted from very flexible and cost-effective office space here at the University of Warwick Science Park through its Ignite programme.
“We are now looking forward to seeing our kit, our survey and our testing procedure help to save lives across the UK.”
Dirk Schafer, of the University of Warwick Science Park, said: “This is a truly amazing story and we are delighted that Business Ready, the Science Park and the University have all played a part in getting Rightangled to this stage.
“It shows that with the right help, advice and support, it’s possible for a great idea to be turned into a business with exciting prospects, which will ultimately save lives.”
Business Ready is delivered by the University of Warwick Science Park and is part of the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council.
Pictured (left to right): Abdullah Sabyah (Rightangled), Dirk Schafer, Alex Toft (both University of Warwick Science Park)