Atomo Diagnostics has won a $2.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation toward developing a rapid diagnostic test for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) designed to enable people in developing countries to test themselves.

By developing an affordable, reliable, and simple HIV self-test, Atomo and the Foundation reason, patient populations that do not use existing facilities-based testing services are likelier to be tested for the virus—especially those at high risk of HIV infection who require more frequent testing.

“We have sought always to develop simple, low-cost solutions that remove errors common with the current generation of ‘bits in a box’ test kits. This grant is an endorsement of our innovative user-friendly approach to testing and our commitment to making a positive impact on global health,” Atomo CEO John Kelly said in a statement. “This grant from the Gates Foundation is an important milestone for Atomo.”

Atomo said it will develop a rapid diagnostic test that meets the needs of national public health systems and individual self-test users worldwide in low- and middle-income countries, by partnering with researchers and health workers, as well as end users.

The company added that it will join with public and private sector partners in developing countries to support commercial launch in undisclosed “key” markets with significant HIV burdens.

Atomo is based in Sydney, Australia, with corporate offices in South Africa and the U.K.

In December 2013, Atomo commercially launched its Atomo AtomoRapid™ HIV 1&2 professional use test, which it said was the world’s first integrated rapid HIV blood test. AtomoRapid won “Best in Show” at the Medical Design Excellence Awards the following year. The test eliminated the need for multiple test components, making it simpler, safer, and more convenient, according to the company.

According to a World Health Organization report released last month, demand for HIV rapid diagnostic tests is projected to increase by one-third from 284 million tests in 2014 to more than 400 million tests per year by 2020 based on the “90-90-90” treatment target, named for the commitment of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) that by 2020:

  • 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
  • 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
  • 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
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