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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R014000/1
Title: LCVD: Low-cost Cell-extract Viral Diagnostics
Principal Investigator: Ajioka, Dr JW
Other Investigators:
Freemont, Professor PS Haseloff, Professor JP Land, Dr K J K
Goodfellow, Professor IG Hussey, Dr S G
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Pathology
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Scheme: GCRF (EPSRC)
Starts: 01 February 2018 Ends: 30 June 2021 Value (£): 1,541,002
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biochemistry & physiology Instrumentation Eng. & Dev.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
14 Nov 2017 EPSRC GCRF Diagnostics, Prosthetics and Orthotics panel November 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Virus disease burden in South Africa

South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV infection worldwide. For infected individuals, drug therapy depends on knowing their virus load (VL) that is, how much virus is in circulation. About 2.4 million HIV VL tests costing $25 to $40 each, were performed last year in SA but the test is still unavailable those without access to major health care centres. Human norovirus (HuNoV; "winter vomiting virus") is highly infectious and responsible for 90% of non-bacterial diarrheal disease and studies in sub-Saharan Africa suggest that a significant proportion of diarrhea-related deaths in children under 5 go unreported. Thus it is likely that HuNoV infection is an underestimated health threat in SA. Addressing both of these problems with low cost point-of care diagnostic tests would greatly improve diagnosis and treatment, reducing mortality and also the heavy economic burden these diseases.

Aims and goals of the proposal

Our ultimate aim is to co-develop methods to rapidly design and construct cost-effective point-of-care diagnostics for infectious disease agents responsible for high morbidity and mortality in South Africa and other low-income regions. We will target HIV virus load (VL) testing and human norovirus (HuNoV) diagnosis. Recently, biologically-based "biosensor" tests for Zika virus and Ebola virus have been developed that can be produced on paper strips. These tests have the potential to be very low cost because they use a soup or extract from cells to identify the virus. The "cell-free" extract can be spotted onto paper strips, which allows a type of "dipstick" biosensor test for the virus. We plan to refine this basic process by having a team of UK and SA researchers co-develop the cell-free biosensors for HIV and HuNoV. The co-development will both train SA researchers in method development but also allow the method to be taught to other researchers that can then apply the method to their own research. Hence, we aim to co-develop a sustainable technology for SA and other low-income areas. Our goals are:

1) to produce prototype low cost point-of-care diagnostic tests for HIV VL testing and HuNoV diagnosis

2) to use the co-development research process to generate a set of cell-free biosensor methods as a platform technology accessible to SA and other LMIC researcher and educators

3) to use the co-development research process to broadly train individual researchers (our research team) and teach the methods and train other researchers in SA. Our proposal is based on co-development of cell-free in vitro biosensor diagnostics using our research teamwork to drive innovation and integration of laboratories and personnel in the UK and South Africa.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.cam.ac.uk