Consortium wins £1m grant to develop in the field test for Ebola

Public Health England (PHE) scientists will head the group researching the test

Public Health England (PHE) scientists are heading a consortium researching a rapid ‘in the field' Ebola test, following the successful award of funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).

The IMI, through its Ebola+ programme, will fund PHE with a £1m grant to coordinate a consortium, called MOFÍNA, of European public and private sector scientists to develop and validate a new test for Ebola, which it is hoped will enable medical workers to diagnose patients on site.

The research team aims to develop and validate a molecular point of care (POC) system suitable for safe, specific and sensitive detection of Ebola virus infection in the field. The system is based on the existing CE-marked assay marketed by altona Diagnostics of Hamburg, Germany and an integrated molecular diagnostic platform from Alere Inc headquartered in Waltham, MA. This molecular point of care system will detect the genetic material of Ebola viruses at a sensitivity and specificity comparable with test systems performed at central laboratories.

Professor Miles Carroll, Head of Research, Microbiology Services for PHE, said: 'If our research is successful, it could be possible to diagnose a suspected case on site in 30–40 minutes, which will dramatically decrease mortality rates.

Patients will be treated faster leading to a greater chance of their survival

'Patients will be treated faster leading to a greater chance of their survival. It will also help medical staff stop the spread of infection and ultimately bring outbreaks to an end.'

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said: 'A rapid diagnostic test has the potential to reduce the devastating effects of Ebola that have affected West Africa during the recent outbreak. This is a fantastic opportunity for Public Health England to significantly improve how we treat Ebola patients and ultimately stop the spread of the virus.'

Dr Seshadri Vasan, PHE's business lead for the project, said: 'There is a need for rapid, accurate Ebola tests that can be used on site. We're aiming to develop a test that can be administered safely and used in locations where laboratories are unavailable.

'Our Public Health England scientists are on the front lines in West Africa, working with academic and private sector partners from around the world to develop therapeutic and diagnostic options for Ebola.'

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