Edinburgh Innovations has supported a key investment to combat trypanosomiasis, a globally important disease affecting livestock.
With EI’s support, Roslin Technologies, the agricultural technology venture builder, has funded a translational research project to develop a diagnostic test for trypanosomiasis, a wasting disease caused by microscopic parasites commonly transmitted by the tsetse fly.
Finding active infection
The work, undertaken through a partnership between Roslin Technologies and Roslin Institute researchers Dr Finn Grey and Professor Liam Morrison, focuses on developing a test that picks up active infection in cattle.
Current tests struggle to identify animals with active infections. This results in over-use of anti-parasitic drugs, which accelerates drug resistance among the parasites, which in turn makes treatments less effective.
The translational partnership has been supported by Siân Ringrose, Business Development Executive at EI. Support has included helping Roslin Technologies draft the Commercialisation Plan, a key legal requirement.
“We’re delighted with the dedication and progress this collaborative initiative has made and will continue to make in the coming months.
“As part of the multi-organisational team it’s been fantastic to support the development of this diagnostic tool, which will hopefully provide a wide range of stakeholders globally with an affordable and highly accurate diagnostic for such a devastating livestock disease.”
– Siân Ringrose, Business Development Executive, Edinburgh Innovations.
$3bn global losses
Trypanosomiasis is devastating to both livestock and the communities that depend on them for their livelihoods. Infected animals suffer from severe anaemia and wasting, which impacts milk and meat yields and can be fatal, leading to losses of $3 billion annually, according to estimates from the University of Glasgow.
There is currently no available vaccine and the best method to control the disease is to identify animals with the disease and treat them accordingly.
The test being developed is based on the detection of a small RNA molecule associated with the parasite, which can also be used to differentiate between different trypanosome species.
The partnership aims to validate the sensitivity and specificity of the test and adapt it from a research format to a commercial one, while securing the patent for the intellectual property behind the test.
“We are very pleased to be working with the University of Edinburgh team to take this much-needed test to the next stage in its commercial development.”
– Professor Jacqui Matthews, Chief Technology Officer, Roslin Technologies.
Tackling trypanosomiasis is a key step in a commercial solution to help solidify the global food chain, while helping people in some of the most challenged parts of the globe.
In South America, where more than 20% of the world cattle population is farmed, the parasite is an emerging serious threat to the international food supply. In sub-Saharan Africa, trypanosomiasis can be devastating, impacting cattle and other draught animals, which are heavily relied on by some of the world’s poorest people.
An accurate test will also help monitor the success of disease control strategies that target the flies that carry the parasite. Some trypanosome species also infect humans and reducing the instances in animals can reduce the occurrence in people.