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NIH Commits $2.6M to Fund Development of Self-Testing HIV Assays

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health has earmarked $2.6 million in fiscal 2018 to fund a series of projects aimed at developing HIV diagnostic assays for self testing.

Despite the benefits of at-risk individuals testing themselves for HIV, current self-testing technologies only detect the host antibody response to infection that arises weeks after initial infection, the NIH said in its funding opportunity announcement, adding, "No self-testing technologies have yet been developed that are able to detect HIV during peak viremia and transmissibility in acute infection."

To address this diagnostic limitation, the agency said the grant will be used to fund three to six research programs focused on the early-stage development of technologies that enable rapid self-testing in the earliest stage of initial HIV infection, and/or can detect HIV rebound in treated individuals as early as possible following treatment interruption or loss of viral control.

Projects appropriate for this funding opportunity will establish proof of concept for simple qualitative or semi-quantitative diagnostic assays that directly detect HIV RNA, DNA, or other biomarkers that reliably correlate with viral load or rebound. Self-test assays should be easy to perform, should detect HIV from a finger-stick blood or other biospecimen at the earliest possible time either post-infection or after loss of viral suppression by antiretroviral therapy, and not require expensive equipment or trained individuals, the NIH said.

Ideally, the self-testing assays will be cost-effective, minimally dependent on electricity, and culture- and refrigeration-independent, the agency added.

Additional details about the funding opportunity can be found here.