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Biotech firm secures £400,000 to develop rapid disease test for cattle

PUBLISHED: 11:06 13 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:06 13 August 2018

New Anglia LEP chief executive Chris Starkie, left, and PBD Biotech chief executive Dr Berwyn Clarke. Picture: PBD BIOTECH/SI BARBER

New Anglia LEP chief executive Chris Starkie, left, and PBD Biotech chief executive Dr Berwyn Clarke. Picture: PBD BIOTECH/SI BARBER

PBD Biotech/Si Barber

An East Anglian biotech firm has secured £400,000 to fund international trials and product launches for a faster, more accurate test for cattle diseases.

Blood testing using the Actiphage test Picture: PBD BIOTECHBlood testing using the Actiphage test Picture: PBD BIOTECH

PBD Biotech, founded last year in Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, has formulated a rapid test for mycobacterial diseases including bovine TB, a condition which can have devastating impact on livestock herds and businesses – forcing the slaughter of more than 30,000 UK cattle in the past year alone.

The firm’s Actiphage test, which it says can identify live bacteria in blood, milk or other tissue in just six hours, has already been given limited government approval for “exceptional private use” for TB-stricken herds, and is currently being tested in field-based trials.

Now the company has raised £400,000 of funding in its first major investment round, from sources including co-investment fund New Anglia Capital, regional investment groups and individual angel investors including farmers and vets.

Early private investor Tom Green, former chief executive of EU agri-business Spearhead International, was appointed chairman of PBD Biotech’s board in September 2017.

He said: “Mycobacterial disease is a global challenge for the whole livestock industry. This new technology has the potential to transform the way we operate in agriculture, and, additionally has huge application in the food industry.

“The first challenge in disease management is diagnosis and there is a huge need for improved accuracy in the current testing regime.

“The ability to confidently eliminate false negatives – diseased animals which go undetected – is fundamental to both the maintenance of ‘disease-free’ herd status, as well as to the proactive control, management and reduction of disease in infected herds.

“This round of investment is enabling PBD Biotech to accelerate its market strategy, putting more resources into manufacturing and lab development, as well as extending training capacity and conducting further trials work.”

International trials of Actiphage are underway in Canada and France, with discussions in other regions including the USA, Dubai and South America. As a result of this funding round, PBD Biotech has also established a Canadian subsidiary for distribution and, in the longer term, manufacturing.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) which manages the New Anglia Capital fund, said: “Seed funding of this kind is vital for businesses to take innovative new ideas and turn them into something tangible – with job creation and economic growth the result.

“PBD Biotech is doing just that, and doing it within an industry sector that plays a key role in driving our economy forward.”

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