Nanobiotechnology experts join forces to improve TB testing

Two UK companies have been awarded joint funding for a research project that could see significant advances in the quest to aid detection and eradication of Tuberculosis (TB), across the world.

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and Orla Protein Technologies (Orla) have been awarded £91,000 by the Technology Strategy Board to investigate improved methods for the detection of TB.

The project, which begins in this month, involves a combination of cutting edge technologies and expertise based here in the UK, including areas of molecular and biological diagnostics (Orla), and measurement science and infectious diseases (NPL).

Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) is a pathogenic bacterial species in the genus Mycobacterium and the causative agent of almost all cases if tuberculosis.

More than five thousand people die every day from TB, largely in the developing world. TB is one of the major lethal factors among AIDS patients. Largely, TB affects the developing world where the situation is worsened with the infection becoming one of the main lethal factors among HIV-infected individuals.

Current methods of TB detection suffer from a need for large sample volumes, long preparation times and different results from different patient groups. This has led to a demand for more sensitive and rapid approaches to be developed.

The Consortium aims to meet this demand, by producing systems which dramatically advance current methods; helping to improve the sensitivity, specificity, cost and speed of results.

Max Ryadnov, Project Leader at NPL, said: "The main objective of the project is to demonstrate the possibility of detecting MTB quickly and cost effectively in both clinical and near-patient settings. Such capability is a Holy Grail of modern diagnostics of MTB and would significantly impact on the UK and global healthcare markets."

The study will make use of techniques developed at the National Physical Laboratory for the detection of MTB antigens - biomarkers which indicate disease - to rapidly assess the presence of the MTB in a sample. These techniques are empowered by a unique technology developed by Orla PT allowing the fabrication of protein patterned surfaces responsive to MTB biomarkers thereby making the manufacture and use of biomarker detection dramatically simpler"

Dale Athey, Chief Executive at Orla, said: "The development of such procedures will help to substantially improve health systems in resource-limiting settings, particularly in HIV-infected TB cases, where sensitivity remains well below confidence limits for all MTB tests.

"We hope the project will allow us to significantly improve consistency and enhanced sensitivity for cost-effective, easy to use point-of-care-solutions for the detection and eradication of MTB."

The project team will also work closely with colleagues in the Health Protection Agency for advice on microbiology, and to arrange testing in a clinical environment.

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