ProtonDx Ltd, an Imperial College health technology spin‑out company delivering cost‑effective, ultra‑rapid, accurate and portable molecular testing, has been awarded a £365,000 grant from the United Kingdom Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs Farming Innovation Programme and UK Research and Innovation's Transforming Food Production Challenge to develop rapid, accurate, point‑of‑care tests for porcine lung diseases, in collaboration with Imperial College London.
Porcine lung infections, including porcine respiratory disease complex, are caused by bacteria, viruses or a combination of both. Currently such infections are controlled by a combination of antibiotics, vaccine protocols and vaccine usage (for commercial and autogenous vaccines), as well as good animal husbandry and other livestock management practices. However, many infections are becoming increasingly resistant to available antibiotics, and there is a lack of effective vaccines for most pathogens.
"This grant will support the adaption of our proprietary 'lab‑on‑a‑chip' technology, which is able to identify bacterial and viral pathogens directly with minimal sample handling," said Pantelis Georgiou, founder and CEO of ProtonDx and head of the Bio‑inspired Metabolic and Infection Technology Laboratory in the Centre for Bio‑inspired Technology, Imperial College. "Our multidisciplinary team are thrilled to have the opportunity to co‑create an automated diagnostic solution that will be able to test the eight major bacterial and viral pathogens seen in PRDC, at once. Our goal is to create an easy‑to‑use, rapid and affordable diagnostic tool that provides a sustainable and resilient revolution in detection and diagnosis of porcine lung diseases on farms worldwide."
Working closely with livestock farmers, the UK's Animal Plant Health Agency and industry experts, the development team at ProtonDx will be using the automated diagnostic platform to enable the detection of major porcine bacterial and viral lung pathogens. The work will be carried out in collaboration with Imperial College London's Oliver Stringer, research postgraduate and Paul Langford, professor of paediatric infectious diseases. The industry experts and animal health specialists will be providing samples, resources and time.
ProtonDx's automated 'lab‑on‑a‑chip' diagnostic platform has been designed to automate pathogen detection and differentiate multiple pathogens simultaneously with confidence. From a simple swab with minimal handling, high quality nucleic acids are automatically extracted and analysed using proprietary LAMP‑based technology. This molecular diagnostic platform validates that the sample has been taken and tested correctly and results are automatically uploaded to the cloud to facilitate track‑and‑trace.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to extend the capability of our automated molecular diagnostic platform," said Robert Enck, chairman and president of ProtonDx. "It is hoped that the use of point‑of‑need diagnostics 'in the field' will provide rapid accurate pathogen detection. This will enable fast remedial action on farms, including support of correct dosing of appropriate antibiotics, as well as vaccine protocols and usage, thereby helping to address the rising issue of antibiotic resistance in the global pig farming industry."
The goal of developing these tests is to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases amongst livestock, specifically pigs, across the global farming and food community. In 2021 the number of pigs in China, European Union, United States and Brazil exceeded 675 million and this number is growing substantially year on year. China is expected to return to pre‑African swine fever numbers of around 600 million over the next few years and in the EU the cost of porcine reproduction and respiratory syndrome is estimated to be €1.5b every year. This is an area of high unmet need with significant clinical and economic impact. The grant is part of £8 million UK‑based fund aimed at assessing new farming concepts announced June 9 as part of Defra's Farming Innovation Programme.
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