The Praesens Foundation, the Institut Pasteur, the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, University of Nebraska Medical Center and Twist Bioscience Corporation (NASDAQ: TWST) announced that the consortium is the winner of the Prix Galien MedStartUp award in the category: 'Best Collaboration Dedicated to the Developing or Underserved Populations Worldwide'. The consortium works together to develop, quantify and scale up a range of innovative solutions on the continent of Africa to ensure better preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks. This includes assays to rapidly identify pathogens developed for and by low and middle income countries that will benefit the communities that need it most.
Diagnostic assistance in an epidemic context
It is important to identify outbreaks as early as possible in order to decrease the burden on the healthcare system and the local economy. Globalization has connected the world but has also increased the spread of infectious disease making it crucial to adopt a syndromic approach to detect and differentiate both known and unknown pathogens and co-infections in clinical settings while safeguarding the affordability & access of these assays to the communities who need it most.
A case in point was the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that cost $32.6 billion and resulted in the loss of 11,000 lives. (1) “Past and recent disease outbreaks of Ebola, SARS, MERS-CoV, Zika and Dengue, have shown that infectious diseases continue to affect many lives while also representing social, economic, and national security threats that can quickly evolve into global health crises, causing major human suffering and imposing enormous economic damage,” (2) said Dr. Rudi Pauwels, Founder and President of Praesens Foundation.
“The research conducted at the Institut Pasteur, and within its international network, unravels the fundamental mechanisms of life, advances scientific knowledge and leads to cutting-edge medical applications. Through its multidisciplinary and transversal approach to research, it promotes discovery and innovation.”, said Dr. Isabelle Buckle, Executive Vice President, Technology Transfer and Industrial Partnerships for the Institut Pasteur. “Combining all these technologies and competences into one integrated solution, based on a decentralized approach with complementary qualitative diagnostic tools ranging from low-cost rapid diagnostic tests to point-of-care in both fixed and mobile diagnostic capabilities, will meet the local needs and ultimately benefit the patients.”
A Mobile Biosafety Lab
Based on field observations, the Praesens Foundation together with Institut Pasteur de Dakar developed a Mobile Biosafety Lab, which aims to provide an innovative and open platform for the immediate detection and identification of pathogens in clinical samples of patients living in hard to reach regions with very limited to non-existent healthcare infrastructure.
The mobile laboratory is an integral part of the Institut Pasteur de Dakar's global strategy for responding to epidemics, alongside the laboratories in a suitcase (lab-in suitcase). The Mobile Biosafety Lab can easily be moved and redeployed between different sites, avoiding transportation of infectious clinical samples to centralized laboratories which is useful during an epidemic investigation of the Dengue epidemic in Louga or when conducting surveillance campaigns as proven in the field for over two years in Senegal.
A method for rapid detection of pathogens
“Using the commercially available pan viral panel capable of detecting approximately 800 different viruses provides an economical and practical approach for identifying potential epidemics and outbreaks worldwide. Due to the uniformity and sensitivity of the custom DNA capture panels, we have been able to efficiently trace the spread of disease and the pattern of mutation for several different viral outbreaks”, stated Michael Wiley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health.
“The Twist method has been used to expedite and consolidate the process of disease identification and patient tracking to help characterize the viruses causing outbreaks,” said Emily M. Leproust, Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Twist Bioscience. “Some examples include the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Senegal, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, Ghana, and Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo among others. We are pleased to partner with this incredible group as a critical part of the solution to the growing healthcare and financial burden of outbreaks and epidemics.”
About the Prix Galien – MedStartUp Prize
Co-founded by the Galien Foundation and Business France, the Prix Galien – MedStartUp encourages and rewards the most promising startups in healthcare formed through international partnerships. The program brings together innovators and stakeholders to facilitate rapid adoption and encourages the diffusion of new technologies to improve the state of human health.
(1) Africa Union’s Peace and Security Council discuss public health threats to the Continent Urge integration of effective public health strategies in the African Union Peace and Security Architecture | African Union [Internet]. [cited 2019 Mar 14]. Available from: https://au.int/en/pressreleases/20180118/africa-union%E2%80%99s-peace-and-security-council-discuss-public-health-threats
(2) Nii-Trebi NI. Emerging and Neglected Infectious Diseases: Insights, Advances, and Challenges. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:5245021.