NEW YORK – The French Technology Research Institute foundation BIOASTER and Carlsbad, California-based diagnostic assay developer DCN Dx on Tuesday announced a collaboration agreement focused on developing multiplex rapid lateral flow diagnostics for neglected tropical diseases.
The work, being supported with $1,859,302 in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded to BIOASTER, aims to enhance the specificity of an existing test for onchocerciasis, a helminth parasite infection also known as river blindness.
Approximately 220 million people require preventive treatment for onchocerciasis each year, with approximately 25 million infections annually leading to more than 1 million cases of vision loss, according the World Health Organization.
In partnership with the National Institutes of Health's Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases and DCN Dx, BIOASTER aims to develop an advanced multiplex lateral flow assay for detecting Onchocerca volvulus antibodies in human blood.
Specifically, the group will enhance a rapid test for Ov16 — an antigen that serves as a marker of exposure or infection — to cover additional antigens against O. volvulus helminth subspecies in order to achieve the 99.8 percent specificity as recommended by the World Health Organization Diagnostic Technical Advisory Group.
The test is ultimately intended to support onchocerciasis elimination and preventive chemotherapy programs.
The project is the second from BIOASTER to be supported by the Gates Foundation. A prior award was granted in 2019 and supported the development of a prototype test in collaboration with Mologic, a firm that was acquired in 2021 by a group of investors with support from the Gates Foundation.