A UCT spin-off company is in the final stages of launching a first-of-its-kind, rapid extra-pulmonary TB (EPTB) diagnostic tool to tackle the TB crisis in Africa.
IRISATM-TB (InterGam Rapid Immuno Suspension Assay) is the first commercial product to emerge from Antrum Biotech, a company that grew out of the research led by UCT’s Professor Keertan Dheda. The groundbreaking tool will enable health workers to detect EPTB by measuring human interferon gamma (a type of protein that plays a role in immunity) in biological body fluids. The test provides a rapid and accurate result within two hours, enabling swift response and treatment of the disease. TB is responsible for an estimated 1.4 million deaths worldwide each year and is the most common cause of death in South Africa. While EPTB accounts for just 15% of TB cases, this estimate increases to 50% in high-HIV-prevalence settings.
UCT converted its licence agreement with Antrum Biotech, which was formed in 2008, to an equity stake in late 2013, thereby assigning the IP to the company and paving the way for a significant investment from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). The company is now co-owned by UCT and the IDC.
The next step is to enter further larger-scale clinical trial testing in 2014. The Medical Research Council-funded trial will have Professor Bongani Mayosi, head of the Department of Medicine, as its principal investigator.