LEO Science & Tech Hub, the Boston-based R&D innovation unit of LEO Pharma A/S, is starting the next phase of a research collaboration in atopic dermatitis (AD) with Epicore Biosystems, a wearable microfluidics and biosensor spinout from Northwestern University’s Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics.

The partnership advances the development of Epicore’s wearable Discovery patch and electrochemical sensors to measure prognostic skin health and inflammation biomarkers. The goal is to explore if and how these biochemical markers can apply to and inform treatment decisions and therapeutic targets.

Phase II of the collaboration will involve a proof-of-principle study in AD patients to track inflammatory biomarkers across different skin locations. The study will be conducted in the Department of Dermatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine to establish baselines. The partnership will also leverage Epicore’s connected electrochemical-sensing solutions toward characterization of skin health and disease-specific biomarkers in real-time and outside confines of a clinic.

“Real-time assessment of inflammatory biomarkers found in sweat and interstitial fluid push the boundaries, leading to objective assessment of interventions for people affected by AD as well as across other chronic diseases,” says Dr. Roozbeh Ghaffari, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Epicore Biosystems, in a news release.

“This collaboration between Epicore and LEO Science & Tech Hub represents a unique opportunity to collect data to enable research in translational medicine on the link between cytokines in sweat and disease state of atopic dermatitis patients,” adds Michael Sierra, Vice President, LEO Science & Tech Hub. “Non-invasive technologies have the potential to deepen unique disease understanding, paving the way for precision medicine within dermatology.”

An initial study was completed in June 2019 in collaboration with Northwestern dermatologists to establish baseline data using the Discovery platform and to test its clinical utility. The team demonstrated the ability to quantify the concentrations of target cytokines in sweat across different skin locations. This serves as a foundation for the phase II effort in AD patients.

“We’re looking forward to engaging with both Epicore Biosystems and LEO Science & Tech Hub in evaluating the Discovery patch in patients with atopic dermatitis. Our experiences so far with the Discovery patch has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Dr. Steve Xu, Department of Dermatology Assistant Professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. “Sweat is the next frontier for biomarker discovery – I believe that there will be unique signatures that will open new avenues for early intervention and precision therapy in atopic dermatitis.”

“Our collaboration with LEO Science & Tech Hub to deploy the Discovery patch in clinical studies serves as the benchmark, helping bring this platform closer to reality in dermatology and skin microbiome research,” says Jeffrey Model, co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Epicore Biosystems.

Since its launch, the LEO Science & Tech Hub has successfully formed multiple collaborations to explore minimally invasive biomarker technologies, drug-delivery devices, advanced imaging systems and remote monitoring methods with leading research institutes and biotechnology companies including MIT, The Karp Lab, Elektrofi and The Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.