QuantuMDx gets $1.6M government grant for superfast, portable TB test

QuantuMDx, backed by a new, $1.6 million U.K. government grant, will advance development work on a super-quick tuberculosis test designed for a smartphone-like device.

The goal is to boost diagnostic options for the infectious disease in both inner cities and developing nations without extensive healthcare infrastructure. In turn, a rapid diagnostic will hopefully allow doctors to more quickly prescribe a targeted and effective treatment, helping to halt its spread. Typically, tuberculosis diagnosis can take weeks.

The Newcastle, U.K., operation is getting the money from the U.K. government's Technology Strategy Board, and the cash will help propel work on its Q-TB test, which looks at sputum samples right at the patient's side and is designed to spot multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis within 15 minutes.

"The only way we can effectively treat and prevent the spread of [multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis] is to perform rapid testing at the patients' side, enabling the immediate prescription of targeted drug treatments," QuantuMDx Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder Jonathan O'Halloran said in a statement.

QuantuMDx plans to use the Q-TB test cartridge in its Q-POC universal handheld diagnostic device. It automatically prepares a patient's sputum sample in a sample cup and then integrates it into the disposable test cartridge. Clinicians press a button and the device then extracts, amplifies and detects TB DNA (think lab-on-a-chip). Crucially, the test will also identify how susceptible the strain is to treatment, with a goal of rapidly prescribing a TB treatment that works best for the specific patient. Q-POC is designed to handle up to thousands of new markers of disease, the company said. QuantuMDx is also developing assays for Q-POC to test for malaria, drug resistance, tumors and gauge dosing for warfarin.

Back in November 2012, QuantuMDx won $2.2 million in funding from the U.K. government-backed Biomedical Catalyst initiative to develop a rapid diagnostic test for cancer. QuantuMDx launched in 2008.

One developer of tuberculosis diagnostics--Oxford Immunotec Global--recently announced plans for an IPO that could raise more than $86 million.

- read the release