CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Institute of Health has awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to Daktari Diagnostics for a point-of-care hepatitis C diagnostic system. Daktari, which commercializes diagnostic platforms to meet the health care needs in Africa, Asia, and resource-limited settings worldwide, will use the grant funding to continue development of the Daktari HCV assay, which runs on the same point-of-care platform as the Daktari CD4 test used to monitor HIV patients in remote settings.
"We hope to demonstrate that the Daktari platform can detect and quantify HCV viral load directly from fingerstick whole blood in less than 30 minutes," said Marta Fernandez-Suarez, Scientific Director for Daktari. "The Daktari point-of-care platform is uniquely suited to bring HCV testing to resource limited areas of the globe."
The HCV diagnostic grant is part of the NIH SBIR Fast Track program.
"Utilizing the fast-track program, we are excited to accelerate the development of our HCV test," said Fred Farber, Chief Technology Officer for Daktari. "We believe that successful development of the Daktari HCV test can have a profound impact on access to HCV care worldwide."
Hepatitis C has emerged as a major global pandemic, affecting at least 175 million people worldwide. New treatments have radically altered the face of the disease: a short course of treatment lasting 3 to 6 months can now cure the majority of patients living with hepatitis C infection. In the last 12 months, new HCV drugs have led to discussion of a global HCV eradication program, like the smallpox and polio campaigns.
One concern with the new treatments, however, is their cost, which may run as high as $80,000 per treatment course. UNITAID, a UN agency that has raised $1.6 billion to support commercialization of critical drugs and diagnostics in the developing world, has recently taken a keen interest in the global HCV pandemic.
Last month, UNITAID announced initial investments of $20 million to increase access to new HCV treatments worldwide, by funding programs designed to provide drugs at $500 per treatment course.
UNITAID's support for HCV treatment comes on the heels of an October 2013 report it released on the state of the HCV pandemic, and the availability of drugs and diagnostics to combat the disease. The UNITAID HCV report can be found online at: http://www.unitaid.eu/en/resources/press-centre/news/1284-unitaid-publishes-first-scoping-report-on-hepatitis-c. In addition to the costs of treatment, a second concern raised by UNITAID is the poor availability of HCV diagnostic tests. The UNITAID report highlights that "the current diagnostic paradigm is not suitable on a large scale for low-income countries, and is challenging for middle-income countries."
Daktari has previously received $2.7 million in UNITAID funding to accelerate the availability of the Daktari CD4 system in seven African countries. The Daktari CD4 System is a battery-powered, handheld instrument and a disposable, single-use microfluidic assay cartridge, which provides a CD4 count in 14 minutes from s single drop of blood, and transmits results wirelessly to central databases through the mobile phone network.
After development is complete, the Daktari HCV assay will also be usable by anyone after a brief training program, and should be suitable for use anywhere in the world.
Daktari Diagnostics, Inc. (www.daktaridx.com) is a venture-backed company based in Cambridge, USA. Daktari's corporate mission is to address the world's biggest health problems by building a market-leading business around a fleet of accurate, portable diagnostic products that can be deployed anywhere in the world. The Daktari technology platform combines electrochemical sensing with microfluidics, enabling highly accurate, low-cost diagnostics in a handheld format. The Daktari connectivity platform provides seamless data management for results produced at any health facility.
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SOURCE Daktari Diagnostics, Inc.