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CASE STUDY: Fourth State and University of Surrey

How atmospheric plasma technology specialist, Fourth State has collaborated with the University of Surrey to accelerate the commercialisation of new products

Fourth State is a young and innovative small business, delivering new products to the healthcare sector using its proprietary atmospheric plasma technology. The company has strong links to Harley Street clinics, the NHS and leading research institutes.

Addressing a national wound care challenge

Through the SPRINT programme, Fourth State accessed space-enabled resources from the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre to develop an innovative plasma-based wound care solution for the UK and global healthcare sectors, based on its proprietary technology. This collaboration has optimised Fourth State’s existing product, Nebulaskin, for non-surgical cosmetic treatments and developed a disruptive new solution for the treatment of wounds.

Benefits achieved through SPRINT included:

• Laboratory trials of device resulted in double the rate of wound repair
• Accelerated commercialisation of innovative technology
• Outputs informed development of world-first electronic nitric oxide (NO) generator for laboratory research: NOxLab™
• Research assistant secured three-year PhD at Surrey Space Centre

SPRINT provides crucial link in development chain

Tom Frame, Founder & Chief Executive Officer at Fourth State said: “It’s a difficult challenge as a start-up to commit to acquiring advanced measurement and data manipulation expertise and equipment; we just don’t have the resources. Working with the University of Surrey on the SPRINT project has been a crucial link in the chain, enabling us to understand the chemical outputs of our technology and unlock a wide range of new business opportunities.

“As a result of the outcomes of the project, we’ve been able to trial a device for wound healing at Hull York Medical School that’s more than doubled the rate of wound repair in pre-clinical studies. We’re now talking to several wound care providers about commercialising our solution.

“The project has also provided us with a platform to support the development of our new NOxLab™ product – the world’s first programmable electronic nitric oxide (NO) generator for laboratory research.”

“Taking products to the next level”

Dr Tom Wantock, Research & Innovation Manager at Fourth State, added: “The opportunities presented by nitric oxide (NO) gas are truly astounding. To highlight just a few areas of interest: NO is involved in the body’s natural immune response to pathogens (bacteria, viruses and fungi – including antimicrobial-resistant strains), the control of blood flow and tissue regeneration.

“Plasma technology can create NO in-situ in tuneable quantities, using just air (nitrogen and oxygen molecules) and electricity. We designed NOxLab™ to enable scientists in industry and academia to innovate with NO: we provide a convenient, compact and programmable alternative to current technologies that are prohibitively expensive or difficult to control.

“The SPRINT programme was a perfect fit for us. The company was founded on the principle of applying knowledge and skills developed in the UK space sector, in plasma physics and spacecraft systems engineering, to healthcare. It was great to work again with the Surrey Space Centre to take our products to the next level and accelerate the delivery of plasma’s benefits to patients and healthcare providers worldwide.”

Plasma expertise at SSC

Plasma is the fourth state of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma) and the Surrey Space Centre has significant expertise in the application of plasma in space propulsion systems.

The plasma propulsion group at the Surrey Space Centre has developed novel solutions to address technological gaps in the worldwide propulsion portfolio. With expertise at the intersection between engineering and physics, the group is actively involved in several scientific and industrial development projects, in collaboration with companies and research institutions.

Dr Andrea Lucca Fabris, lecturer in Space Propulsion and responsible for the plasma technology research at SSC, stated: “The research collaboration enabled by the SPRINT programme was a wonderful opportunity to exploit knowledge created in the space sector for developing new technologies aimed at improving the wellbeing of people. We are pleased to have worked with Fourth State, whose attitude towards innovation and vision for the future are inspirational for cutting-edge research.”

A lasting relationship with University of Surrey

The Surrey-based SME company spun out from the University of Surrey in 2012 and since then, has worked with the University on various activities and projects including the Impact Acceleration Account in 2014, the Enterprise Fellowship award and an Innovation for Health Voucher in 2018.

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