Innovation at the core of work at SureScreen ‘tea rooms’

IT is at the forefront of cancer-screening technology, works for Formula One racing teams when parts fail and is developing devices to make diagnosis easier for doctors.

SureScreen, based in Derby and Morley, is even finding that its expertise in neurochemistry and nutrition is required by top-flight football clubs looking to give their players an edge.

Director Alex Campbell said: “Football clubs playing at a high level know how to develop the physical fitness of the players.

“With the physical aspects, they are quite sophisticated but are not so good on the neurological side.”

On the pitch, a player’s mental attitude can have as big an impact on his performance as his fitness.

Levels of certain chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine have a significant effect on motivation and mood respectively.

Maintaining balanced brain chemistry is a means to maximise performance when it matters.

It is a fact that professional sporting organisations are beginning to realise.

Though SureScreen is not at liberty to divulge which clubs it is working with, the company reports that its involvement has led to improved results.

Its screening technology can even detect if a player has broken the rules and binged on Chinese food prior to an important game.

“We have developed quite a lot of unique knowledge in the field of neurochemistry and are helping to unlock the next level of technology,” said Alex, who is currently on the first draft of a book on neurochemistry.

Managing brain chemistry also has implications for people suffering from chronic illnesses.

Alex said: “They always have food cravings because this is a way of self-medicating, but we put them on a strict diet plan with a variety of supplements to take that can help alleviate symptoms.”

Little research is being carried out into this area perhaps because there is more profit in pharmaceuticals for anxiety and depression than tweaking brain chemistry with a diet rich in the right kind of nutrients and a few supplements.

The firm’s Morley Retreat site looks little like a hotbed of innovation. The grade two-listed Georgian building has undergone a wholesale restoration and combines tea rooms and conference facilities, but it also contains a high-tech laboratory where advanced research is being carried out.

The company also has a laboratory in Prime Parkway, near Chester Green in Derby.

The company’s laboratories are undertaking work into brain chemistry that is producing fresh insights into how to deal with problems such as chronic fatigue, depression, stress and anxiety.

In a world where conventional wisdom suggests businesses should specialise and develop niche products, Surescreen has taken a different route. In fact, it has taken many different routes. The three sides of the business are the aforementioned life sciences side, investigation of mechanical failure for industry and diagnostics.

With a background in forensics, Jim Campbell, father of Alex and managing director, also finds himself in court as an expert witness – on murder investigations and inquiries into equipment failure. And he worked for the Home Office, producing the specification for the electronic tags designed to monitor criminals.

The company’s bread and butter is diagnostic testing and it is working on new roadside drug and alcohol tests for police forces.

Jim’s other two sons Alastair and David also take an active role in the business. Jim said: “They will be going to Medica in Dusseldorf to meet overseas buyers. It is a huge international trade fair and I’ve been many times but I’ve noticed that, with the people we deal with, the next generation is coming through.”

One of the main products that the Campbells will be promoting is Surescreen’s Alcostick.

Jim said: “It is a finger-prick test that is ideal for accident and emergency departments to determine a patient’s blood-alcohol level within a couple of minutes.

“There has been a lot of interest from Italy and Slovakia.”

The company is also developing a speculum for gynaecologists that will provide them with a tool that is more practical to use and less uncomfortable for patients. The first imaginative design leap is that the device has its own light source.

Jim said: “The trials are coming along nicely with focus groups. Fibre optics are looking like the best option and, under certain types of light, certain cells will show up, especially tumour cells.”

There is nothing like it on the market and, once it goes into production, it is expected to sell like hot cakes.

SureScreen’s work gives it a high degree of credibility in the field of cancer research. It is working on testing innovative equipment that can analyse the DNA of tumour cells and speed up diagnosis, thereby giving patients a better chance of survival.

Alongside the rigorous scientific analytical side of the business, there are also some unconventional approaches to the disease.

The firm has come up with a product it claims could counteract the spread of cancer cells.

The theory is that vitamin C is harmful to tumorous cells but difficult to deliver. SureScreen has therefore coated microscopic particles of vitamin C in a type of soluble oil, or lipid, that cancer cells require to replicate. Once the malignant cells have absorbed the outer layer, in theory, the vitamin C is released to target the cancer.

Unconventional thinking this may be, but it is the kind of unconventional thinking that has made SureScreen a leader in so many fields.