Rapid Test for TB Gets Boost from Gates Foundation

Illustration by Marcia Staimer

Illustration by Marcia Staimer / Creative Services

Doctors soon could be able to diagnosis pulmonary tuberculosis with a rapid test that uses technology originally developed at George Mason University. 

Ceres Nanosciences Inc. (Ceres) today announced the start of a development program, funded by the Gates Foundation, that will use Ceres’ Nanotrap® particle technology to develop a new method of diagnosing active pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) in urine.

Ceres received $746,000 in funding for the tuberculosis test development program from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“The World Health Organization estimates that tuberculosis kills 1.8 million people annually,” said Lance Liotta, co-director of the George Mason-based Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine and co-founder of Ceres. “TB is treatable, if it can be detected in time, thus a reliable and highly sensitive point-of care test for active pulmonary tuberculosis will be a game changer for disease control.”

During the nine-month program, Ceres will work in close collaboration with leading TB experts from Mason, Johns Hopkins University, University of Colorado and Colorado State University to demonstrate the ability of the Nanotrap to enable a highly sensitive rapid test for TB in urine.

The Nanotrap technology was invented at Mason under funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for biomarker discovery applications, and currently is being developed into commercial products by Ceres with support from NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Existing, commercially available TB tests are limited in their ability to detect TB effectively from urine—they just aren’t sensitive enough,” said Ben Lepene, chief operating officer and director of research and development for Ceres. “Our goal is to increase the sensitivity 10-100 times, by using the Nanotrap, and integrate into a simple, user-friendly, test format—like a pregnancy test. This will enable rapid identification of infected individuals without requiring highly trained personnel.”

Ceres, a biotechnology company located in Northern Virginia, has developed and commercialized a novel nanoparticle technology, the “Nanotrap” which provides powerful biofluid sample processing capabilities for a wide array of diagnostic applications and sample handling needs. Mason researchers are on Ceres’ Scientific Advisory Board.

This article originally appeared on Mason News

Write to Michele McDonald at mmcdon15@gmu.edu

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