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Kephera Diagnostics Nabs $600K NIH Grant for Hookworm Test

NEW YORK — Kephera Diagnostics said on Monday that it has won a $600,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop an antibody-based test for hookworm infection.

Hookworm is an intestinal parasite that infects an estimated 500 million people worldwide, primarily in low- and middle-income nations. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and anemia, although many infected individuals are asymptomatic.

Kephera said it will use the NIH Small Business Innovative Research grant to develop and validate an ELISA assay to detect antibodies against hookworm in blood samples to help monitor infection levels in people undergoing treatment.

"Cumbersome methods currently used to detect infection make it very challenging to determine how effective mass drug administration programs have been, whether there are residual hotspots, and whether drug resistance is emerging," Michael Cappello, a researcher at the Yale School of Public Health and a Kephera collaborator, said in a statement. "A simple and readily accessible test is much needed."

In late 2021, Kephera received a $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to continue work on a test for the parasitic worm liver fluke. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company has also received NIH funding to develop tests for Chagas disease and Zika virus.