Australia's Atomo secures $6M to deploy its rapid HIV self-diagnostic in emerging markets

AtomoRapid HIV test--Courtesy of Atomo Diagnostics

Sydney-based Atomo Diagnostics has secured a $6 million loan for its rapid diagnostic test for fast self-diagnosis of HIV and other infectious diseases from the private Global Health Investment Fund (GHIF). Based in New York City, the fund is associated with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Big Pharmas Pfizer ($PFE), GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Merck ($MRK).

Atomo aims to replace current-generation lateral flow rapid test kits, which are complicated and not suited for use outside of a laboratory, with its AtomoRapid platform.

The GHIF and Atomo "have made global access commitments to support and facilitate the launch and commercialization of Atomo's professional use and self-test products in low and middle-income countries to ensure that they achieve the greatest possible global impact," according to a release.

Launched in 2014, the AtomoRapid collects and analyzes a small, 10-microliter drop of blood, and provides a diagnosis of HIV within 15 minutes, according to the company website.

"Young South Africans surveyed at the Foundation's mobile and youth clinics preferred self-testing with the Atomo product over traditional HIV test kits," said Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker, executive director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation and president of the International AIDS Society, in a statement. "We urgently need innovation that will facilitate the UNAIDS ambitious goal of 90% of all HIV positive people knowing their status by 2020. GHIF's investment in Atomo has laid a foundation towards that 90% goal through HIV self-testing."

Atomo also deploys the platform to diagnose malaria and distinguish between different strains of the disease. And the company says it is finalizing development of a hepatitis C test. Also in the works is a multitest platform.

"Our mission has always been to provide the market with products that meet the needs of users," Atomo CEO John Kelly said in a statement. "We set out to develop a solution to obsolete the current generation 'bits in a box' test kit format, responsible for hundreds of thousands of errors and incorrect diagnoses globally each year. The investment from GHIF not only enables us to scale up our global health activities, it is also a clear endorsement of our innovative AtomoRapid technology as a preferred solution for rapid diagnostic testing."

Last year, the award-winning diagnostic platform received a AU$1.8 million ($1.3 million) grant from the New South Wales Medical Device Fund to develop a version of the HIV testing device with a built-in digital reader.

- read the release