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Epigem shares in €9million project to make water safer

Epigem is a key member of the consortium that has secured €9million to help detect pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and parasites in drinking water. The AQUAVALENS consortium has brought together SMEs, universities and research institutes and the water supply industry, to collaborate to meet this challenge.

The consortium’s mission is to protect the health of European citizens from contaminated drinking water and water used in food processing. Around 330,000 cases of water-related disease such as E.coli and the norovirus are reported yearly in Europe according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The project will run for five years and its total value is €9m.

Tim Ryan, director of Epigem, said: “We are thrilled that our microsystems fabrication expertise will contribute to the global challenge of water safety. This is a very exciting project which will detect bacteria and viruses in water, and have an impact on prevention of food poisoning throughout Europe and beyond.

“The technical challenges are daunting, but I have no doubt that the Aquavalens consortium will overcome these challenges.”

The research will be led by Prof Paul Hunter from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School. Prof Hunter said: “Although most European countries are fortunate to have some of the safest drinking water in the world, outbreaks of disease do still occur each year.

“Millions of Europeans drink water from very small supplies that are currently difficult to properly monitor and which have been shown to pose a risk – particularly to children who suffer the most from episodes of illness, with greater rates of hospitalization and higher mortality rates.

“With the technologies we currently have it can take two or more days to identify infectious risks in drinking water and by then the affected water is likely to have been consumed.

“This project will develop more rapid methods so that problems can be identified earlier. It will prevent people becoming sick by stopping them drinking contaminated water.”

Epigem will be applying its expertise to the challenging problem of water quality monitoring by developing microfluidic devices for multiplexed pathogen separation and detection. The project is funded by the European Union’s Framework Programme 7.

The work is divided into four main clusters of work packages that sequentially lead to the development of appropriate technologies:

1. Platform targets – the consortium shall generate new knowledge on the molecular genetics of viral, bacterial and parasitic waterborne pathogens. This will enable it to find gene targets for the identification and characterisation of these pathogens, that will also enable the determination of their virulence for humans.

2. Platform development – the consortium shall use the knowledge gained to develop new technologies that integrate sample preparation and detection into a single platform. These platforms will then be subject to a rigorous process of validation and standardisation.

3. Field studies in European drinking water systems – the consortium will use the validated platforms to undertake a series of field studies in large and small drinking water systems and in food production. These field studies will generate new knowledge about the risk to public health from waterborne pathogens in Europe and also test the value of the technologies in the field.

4. Improving Public Health through safer water – testing how these technologies can be used to protect human health, though improving the effectiveness of Water Safety Plans, adaptation to climate change, and control of outbreaks of infectious disease. The consortium will also determine the sustainability and potential economic impacts of these technologies.

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The University of East Anglia (UEA) is based in Norwich, UK. It was founded in 1963 and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. It has played a significant role in advancing human understanding and in 2012 the Times Higher Education ranked UEA as one of the 10 best universities in the world under 50 years of age. The university has graduated more than 100,000 students, attracted to Norwich Research Park some of Britain’s key research institutes and a major University Hospital, and made a powerful cultural, social and economic impact on the region.

UEA’s Norwich Medical School has a reputation for exciting and innovative approaches to education, supported by a strong and rapidly developing research programme. Around 90 per cent of UEA research was rated internationally excellent in the last Research Assessment Exercise, with over 50 per cent ‘world leading’.

  1. The consortium comprises:

Austria: Vienna University of Technology
Medical University of Vienna

mbOnline GmbH
Denmark: Technical University of Denmark

Højmarklaboratoriet AS

Instituttet For Produktudvikling

Nordvand AS

Finland: University of Helsinki

France: Ceeram

Germany: Water Technology Centre

Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research

Ribocon GmbH

Vermicon Aktiengesellschaft

Iceland : Haskoli


Ireland: City Analysts Ltd

TEAGASC – Agriculture and Food Development Authority

: University of Genoa

: Enkrott Quimica

Instituto Superior Técnico

: Desing, Faculty of Agriculture University of Belgrade

Rajkovic Nenad

: Centro Technologico del Agua

Fundacion Privada,

Genetic PCR Solutions SL

University of Barcelona

University of Rovira i Virgili

: National Food Agency

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

: University Of East Anglia

Epigem Ltd

Heriot-Watt University,

Moredun Research Institute

Moredun Scientific Ltd

Parker Hannifin Manufacturing Ltd

Public Health Wales National Health Service Trust

The James Hutton Institute

University of Surrey

Water Research Centre
University of Edinburgh



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