Global BioDiagnostics gets Wellcome Trust support for new TB diagnostic

February 5, 2016 – DARESBURY. Global BioDiagnostics has received a £2.6m ($4.3m) Strategic Translation Award from the Wellcome Trust to progress its development of a new, rapid point-of-care test for the diagnosis of tuberculosis. The grant was awarded after completing a proof of concept study of a new technique for the diagnosis of tuberculosis.

The test can detect the bacterium that causes TB in as little as 10 minutes. It is based on technology developed at Texas A&M and Stanford and recently described in Nature Chemistry. The ultimate goal is to develop an accessible, affordable test that can be used at the point of care level in communities across the developing world. A benchmark evaluation study undertaken in the US and Peru using fresh sputum from suspected TB patients has proven feasibility of the technique for the rapid diagnosis of TB.

Michael T. Norman , CEO of Global BioDiagnostics, said: “This new funding will support refinements of the assay technology and further product development work culminating in field trials of the diagnostic test and CE registration. “We hope to develop a test that will enable accurate diagnosis at an earlier stage of infection, while requiring little by way of clinical or technical skill, in a matter of minutes and at a fraction of current costs.”

The new diagnostic test uses technology developed by Dr Jeffrey D Cirillo of Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, near Houston, and Dr Jianghong Rao of Stanford University, California. The basic research has taken more than five years and has been funded through an on-going £3m-plus ($5m-plus) grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to Texas A&M. The technology utilises novel chemical substrates that generate a fluorescent signal when they come into contact with an enzyme produced by the bacterium causing TB.

This technology is called Reporter Enzyme Fluorescence, or REF.  The fluorescent signal is easily detected by simple, low cost, portable fluorometers that are commercially available. The new technique is already generating interest from public health authorities and NGOs active in South Africa, India and the Gulf States. “We expect to develop our base in the UK at Sci-Tech Daresbury, near Liverpool, so that we can manage all aspects of the business from there, including global logistics and international relationship management,” added Mr Norman.

Source: The Wellcome Trust