Proteus picks UK for 'smart pill' production and testing

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By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - A U.S. biotech company pioneering tablets containing edible embedded microchips that can tell if patients have taken their medication is to establish its first international manufacturing site in Britain.

Privately held Proteus Digital Health, which is working with drugmakers including Novartis and Otsuka, said on Monday the new site would employ some 200 skilled staff and serve as a hub for the emerging digital medicine industry.

The move was welcomed by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said it showed Britain's ability to attract high-tech companies.

Proteus already has European and U.S. approval for its "smart pill" technology system, in which a tiny sensor is embedded in a tablet and linked to a patch worn on the patient's abdomen.

About the size of a grain of sand, the sensor has no battery or antenna and is powered by reacting with stomach juices. Information is sent from the sensor to the small skin patch, which transmits data by Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet computer.

In addition to telling doctors if patients are taking their medicines properly, the tiny sensors can also monitor vital signs, such as heart rate.

Several teams within Britain's state-run National Health Service plan to test the benefits of using the sensor technology in various fields, including in treating hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Ensuring that patients with high blood pressure, who suffer no symptoms, have taken their medicines properly is a major challenge for doctors.

In May, Redwood City, California-based Proteus announced a $62.5 million funding round, including investment from new investor Oracle.

(Editing by Louise Heavens)

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