'Game-changing' cattle disease test wins £2.3m funding

Cows in a cattle shed in Norfolk

Suffolk firm PBD Biotech has secured £2.3m of funding to gain international validation for its new diagnostic test for bovine tuberculosis in cattle - Credit: Ian Burt

An East Anglian firm's "game-changing" test for a devastating cattle disease has won £2.3m of funding to help it secure international validation.

PBD Biotech, based at Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, has developed a rapid, accurate test for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) that it claims could enable farmers to effectively remove the disease from their herds. 

The new investment will enable the company to take its patented Actiphage test through to validation by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

It detects mycobacteria in a blood or milk sample, giving a simple yes or no answer, and offering the potential to identify animals at an early stage of infection.

Full validation will enable international adoption of this diagnostic test for mycobacterial diseases, which also include Johne’s Disease.

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

"There is a significant international unmet need for a diagnostic for bTB 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.”

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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, along with the University of Nottingham, the government’s Future Fund and private investors including farmers and veterinary practices.

Actiphage’s use in England and Wales is currently approved by the Animal and Plant Health Agency as an unvalidated test for use only in a chronic bTB breakdown.

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

Torch Farm Vets, one of the investors, said: “The current test and cull approach has not been completely successful in eradicating bovine TB, so approaches that enable a better understanding of the cause, development and transmission of this disease are to be welcomed.”

Blood testing using the Actiphage test Picture: PBD BIOTECH

Blood testing using PBD Biotech's Actiphage test - Credit: PBD Biotech

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