Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Sano Genetics and Predictive Health Intelligence have secured £800k from an Innovate UK funding competition to develop and test a system that can identify high-risk liver disease cases.

The trio’s aim is to be able to pinpoint cases far earlier than existing approaches, as well as to pinpoint fast-progressing cases.

Typically, liver disease presents late, but this new system could be a cost-effective solution for population-wide screening.

Sano Genetics, a Cambridge-based company that accelerates precision medicine research, will work alongside Predictive Health Intelligence and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, who have developed a novel approach to identify high-risk liver disease cases from common blood tests already present in NHS databases.

Additionally, the team will collaborate with Tawazun Health, specialists in mobile, non-invasive liver scanning technology.

Tim Jobson, medical director of Predictive Health Intelligence said: “It’s time to end the late diagnosis of liver disease, which places a huge burden on the health of the nation and which accounts for 26,000 premature deaths and 100,000 years of lost life each year.

“Combining precision medicine with proven technologies has the potential to pave the way for national screening and risk-stratification for liver and metabolic disease. This cannot come soon enough.”

As many as 30% of the adult population will have markers of fatty liver disease. Therefore a highly selective approach to identifying those who are at risk is needed.

The team will combine longitudinal biomarker analysis, non-invasive liver scanning and non-invasive genetic testing to identify cases of liver disease. Patients who are identified as being at-risk will be invited to be scanned and to carry out an at-home DNA test using a simple kit from Sano Genetics.

Standard follow-up treatment plans and counselling will be offered to patients, who will also gain access to Sano’s patient engagement platform.

Patrick Short, CEO and co-founder of Sano Genetics, said: “This pioneering programme could change the way we diagnose and treat liver disease for good. By combining genomics, non-invasive liver scanning, and machine-learning technologies that already exist, we can save lives as well as cost to the NHS.”

As the project progressed, additional NHS trust partners will be added to the programme.

With liver disease now the second leading cause of death among 35-49-year-olds, more companies are focusing on how to identify it quickly. In April this year, NuraLogix announced new capability for assessing fatty liver disease risk with an artificial intelligence (AI) model that uses facial blood patterns for predicting risk.