NEW YORK – The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics announced on Thursday it has signed a $14.5 million deal with Unitaid to evaluate using next-generation sequencing for diagnosing drug-resistant tuberculosis in low- and middle-income nations.
Over three years, starting in October, the project, called Seq&Treat, will be implemented in Brazil, China, Georgia, India, and South Africa. The project, FIND said, will enable the introduction and adoption of targeted NGS technology for affordable, scalable, and rapid TB drug-susceptibility testing.
The project will seek to generate clinical evidence in support of the World Health Organization's global guidance for the use of targeted NGS to diagnose drug-resistant TB; establish a WHO global clinical knowledgebase; evaluate proof-of-principle delivery models for incorporating NGS into existing diagnostic workflows; and "facilitate inclusion of recommended NGS solutions into global procurement mechanisms and adoption by" low- and middle-income countries, FIND said.
The Geneva-based non-profit noted that TB is the world's deadliest infectious disease with 10 million people dying of the illness in 2017. It added that during the same year, 558,000 people developed TB that was resistant to the most effective first-line drug, rifampicin. Of those patients, 82 percent had multidrug-resistant TB.
"The implementation of sequencing for patient care in LMICs has been limited due to perceptions of high cost, technical and workflow complexity, and lack of infrastructure on both supply and demand sides," FIND CEO Catharina Boehme said in a statement. "This significant investment from Unitaid will enable us to challenge these ideas by demonstrating sustainable and scalable sequencing models in high-burden TB countries."