U.K.-based International Diagnostics Centre brings global diagnostics R&D together

Accurate, fast and low-cost diagnostics are vital for the effective and rapid treatment of disease, particularly infectious disease. The launch of the International Diagnostics Centre (IDC) at the U.K.'s London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine could bring them a step closer to reality and make a significant difference to healthcare in developing countries.

The IDC has been created as a global research hub to support collaboration between researchers from more than 100 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. As Rosanna Peeling, director of the IDC, explained to CMAJ, the center's aims include creating a "critical mass of researchers working across all different aspects of diagnostics from R&D to cost-effectiveness and delivery so that we can develop synergies and more effective collaborations."

For many years, governments and industry have focused on the development of therapeutics and vaccines, and the regulatory oversight and lack of standards has led to low-quality diagnostics with a poor evidence base, discouraging competition from companies with more reliable but perhaps more costly tests.

"A new generation of diagnostic tests could save millions of people from deadly diseases like AIDS and TB in the next few years," said Peeling in a statement.

By breaking the boundaries between countries and academic disciplines and creating a pool of global expertise, the IDC could speed up the identification of new biomarkers through basic and clinical research and support the development and evaluation of new affordable point-of-care diagnostics for lower-income populations. This would allow patients get the treatment they need more quickly. Areas of interest include diagnostics for malaria, HIV, syphilis, trachoma, schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis and trypanosomiasis.

The IDC could also be more than just about simple point-of-care diagnostics though, and could change healthcare for millions in need. As Lawrence Loh of the University of Toronto in Ontario said to the CMAJ: "The centre is definitely innovating towards collaboration with key stakeholders on all sides of the equation besides diagnostic testing--research into more effective and efficient treatments, successful program planning, implementation and evaluation, overarching policy and coalition building, outreach, cultural sensitivity and behavioral sciences--to answer some of the difficult questions facing global health efforts."

- check out the article in CMAJ

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