Novel TB and Johne’s test secures £2.3 million funding for full validation

A novel bovine TB and Johne’s test, which boasts quicker and more accurate results, has secured £2.3 million funding for full World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) validation.

PBD Biotech’s ‘Actiphage’ is the world’s first test to identify bacteria linked with both Johne’s disease and tuberculosis from a sample of blood. The test can also detect mycobacteria in milk.

Its funders include farmers and vets who hope the test could have the potential to eradicate TB.

Full validation will enable international adoption of the novel patented diagnostic for mycobacterial diseases, which include human tuberculosis and Johne’s disease.

Actiphage has already been described as “having the potential to be a game-changer in tackling bTB,” by Prof. Lord Trees, head judge for the British Veterinary Association Innovation Award 2021.

“Actiphage was a worthy winner,” he said.

Current use

Actiphage’s use in England and Wales is currently approved by APHA as an unvalidated test for use only in a chronic bovine TB breakdown.

OIE validation would enable Actiphage to be used in parallel with the existing skin test, offering farmers and their vets a method of managing and eliminating the disease for the first time.

With as many as half of the cattle carrying bovine TB missed by the main tuberculin skin test used in the UK and Ireland, traditional tests often leave behind a reservoir of disease in the herd that results in chronic infection.

Unlike the skin test, which uses the animal’s immune response to indicate the level of infection, Actiphage detects the presence of live mycobacteria in a blood or milk sample, therefore, offering a faster and more accurate response.

The funding has come from a consortium led by fund managers Mercia and the Foresight Group, which were both investing from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, the University of Nottingham, the government’s Future Fund; and private investors including farmers and veterinary practices.

PBD Biotech chief executive Mark Hammond said: “It has been shown on-farm that when Actiphage is used within a disease management strategy it is possible to eliminate bovine TB from a herd and maintain a disease-free status.

There is a significant international unmet need for a diagnostic for bovine TB and Johne’s Disease; with this funding, we will be able to commission the trials needed to fully validate the test and capture this market.

Sandy Reid, investment director at Mercia, added: “PBD Biotech’s Actiphage test has the potential to radically improve disease control in the dairy sector, offering huge economic benefits for farmers both in the UK and internationally.

“This investment will accelerate its progress onto farms. And we are hugely excited about the further development of the test for detection of TB in Human blood samples.”