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Sedgefield company develops technology to detect early signs of osteoporosis

IBEX, the Sedgefield-based medtech company, has demonstrated a new system that can detect early signs of osteoporosis in a clinical trial with researchers from The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Ibex’s pioneering medical X-ray imaging technology provides an early warning of a patient’s risk of potentially fatal fragility fractures to facilitate more timely and targeted intervention.

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. A broken hip is one of the most common injuries. Although the NHS currently spends over £1 billion per annum on the diagnosis and treatment of hip fractures, it remains the largest single cause of accident-related death in the UK with a third of patients dying within a year of first presenting at hospital.

There is currently no method for routinely assessing bone health in the general population, and typically osteoporosis is only diagnosed following a serious debilitating fracture and assessment on specialist DEXA scanning equipment.

IBEX Trueview® software measures a patient’s bone health from a standard X- ray, meaning that the early signs of a problem can be identified from the first fracture, ten- 15 years before the onset of serious osteoporosis. This will lead to earlier and population-wide assessment for osteoporosis and more timely and targeted treatment to reduce the future risk of more serious fractures.

In preliminary analysis of data from a trial of 130 patients attending for a DEXA scan at James Cook, IBEX Trueview® technology gave a better prediction of DEXA outcome than age or gender and demonstrated excellent agreement to the current gold standard CT and DEXA methods.

IBEX is backed by investors including the North East Venture Fund (NEVF), which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Mercia, the IP Group and private investors. The company has received several rounds of funding totalling £5.5 million so far. The company is also working on a system to improve detection of breast cancer.

Professor Amar Rangan, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, and chief investigator for the clinical study said: “The data I have seen from the study so far is fascinating and exciting, as I think it has the potential to change the way we screen individuals to assess their bone health.”

Neil Loxley, CEO of IBEX, said: “We are excited by the preliminary results of the trial, which we believe demonstrate the first major innovation in the osteoporosis diagnosis since the introduction of DEXA more than three decades ago. I am grateful for the support of clinical and research staff at The James Cook University Hospital and look forward to reporting progress in commercialising this new capability in the near future.”

Ian Wilson, who leads Mercia’s team in the North East, added: “IBEX is a pioneer in its field whose software could help save lives through early detection. Its success also demonstrates how investment from sources such as Mercia and the North East Venture Fund can help create jobs and build local economies by supporting innovative companies in the regions.”