Molecular diagnostics firm Akonni Biosystems won a $300,000 contract from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to develop a low-cost, field-based device that can extract, purify, and stabilize DNA from sputum for molecular-based tuberculosis testing. The technology will need to be robust enough to use in inhospitable tuberculosis-endemic areas, and NIH says the extracted DNA must be suitable for a range of diagnostic approaches, including sequencing, isothermal amplification, or PCR. Akonni says the ultimate aim is to enable sputum processing and molecular testing to be delinked, so that processing can be carried out at point-of-care, or at a centralized facility.
Akonni’s Rebecca Holmberg, Ph.D., principal investigator and project director for the NIAID contract, commented, “we have been approached by several different parties, all looking for a similar solution—a simple, rapid, low-cost nucleic acid extraction device that can be used by untrained personnel in the field in developing countries, and can produce high-quality, purified nucleic acids that are compatible with several different downstream detection methods. We are excited to work on such an important and valuable solution.”
Akonni’s TruTip® sample preparation platform is founded on a nucleic acid purification technology that enables DNA/RNA extraction and purification from a wide range of biological samples, cultures, soil, and water. The firm is also developing multiplex assays for applications in pharmacogenomics, chronic human diseases, and infectious diseases, including multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), extensive drug-resistant tuberculosis (XR-TB), upper respiratory infections, viral encephalitis, and hospital-acquired infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Commenting on the latest NIAID contract, Michael Reinemann, MPH, Akonni’s director of business development, said, “This latest award will help accelerate a key corporate objective of bringing affordable, effective next-generation solutions to low-resource settings. The sample preparation contract complements Akonni’s proprietary TruArray® MDR-TB test, which simultaneously interrogates hundreds of genetic markers from a single patient sample, in order to identify common drug-resistant strains of TB. Our patented, innovative microfluidic design and manufacturing procedures enable us to produce the tests at a price point that is affordable for lower-cost settings where TB is prevalent.”
Akonni previously won an NIH grant to support the development of a fully automated platform for identifying multidrug-resistant strains of TB. And back in 2014, Akonni and Harvard University were awarded $29 million by NIH to support development of the drug-resistant TB diagnostic.