A team of IGT Network+ members, including PhD student Mihnea Turcanu working on a funded secondment through the IGT Network+ Mobility Award, have developed a capsule called SonoPill able to perform ultrasound scans and detect tumours when swallowed.


SonoPill has the potential to revolutionise treatment of diseases like bowel cancer and Crohn’s Disease.


Current conventional diagnosis involves an endoscopy, an uncomfortable internal examination that threads a thin tube with a camera into the stomach through the rectum or throat, leaving many patients reluctant to undergo the procedure.


The SonoPill is a small capsule that patients swallow instead that is only about 1cm wide and 3cm long. The pill is able to take ultrasound images and deploy fluorescent markers. The fluorescent markers can improve early detection of disease by making it easier to identify small growths on the bowel known as polyps, which can be cancerous and are often flat and hard to detect. Crucially, unlike similar products available to the NHS, it can also be directed using magnetic controls to specific areas in the bowel to deliver treatment.


With the equivalent of 44 bowel cancer deaths a day in the UK in 2014, improving the accurate and early detection of disease could have a vast patient impact.


Project lead at University of Glasgow, IGT Network+ member Professor Sandy Cochran, told the Sunday Times (paywall), “This is at the cutting edge of diagnostic technology and being able to deliver precise, targeted treatment could be revolutionary. It’s simple for the patient and will improve diagnosis, reduce clinicians’ time and save money for the NHS”.  On average, current diagnosis using an endoscopy procedure costs the NHS about £900, but the SonoPill aims to be hundreds of pounds cheaper.


The SonoPill project has attracted wide press coverage this month, including the Sunday Times, the Times and Daily Mail. The SonoPill project is led by a team at University of Glasgow in collaboration with researchers at University of Leeds, University of Dundee, Heriot Watt University and elsewhere, and with funding support from EPSRC.


Mihnea Turcanu, working as part of the SonoPill team, was awarded funding through an IGT Network+ Mobility Award to visit King’s College London for three months and collaboratively work with the expertise there on drug delivery and imaging for enhanced uptake in the gastrointestinal tract. Find out more about the IGT Network+ funding opportunities here.