RedKnight consultancy supported GeneFirst with its successful application to Horizon 2020, securing the innovative med-tech start-up and its four collaborating partners (two SMEs and two hospitals) over €2.8m in grant funding. In total, 144 applications were submitted to the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) competition, of which eight projects were selected for funding (6% success rate). The successful projects represent the most promising advances in therapeutics and diagnostics to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
GeneFirst’s project, entitled RAPID-COVID, set out to clinically validate its innovative multiplex technology in both point of care and high throughput (HTP) settings, which includes testing for SARS-CoV-2. Based in Oxford, GeneFirst provides simple, reliable and effective molecular solutions to aid the accurate diagnosis of diseases and the improvement of patient management.
When the project started in July 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had caused over 11 million infections globally, claiming more than 500,000 lives. In response to the outbreak, a rapid and definitive diagnosis of the specific SARS-CoV-2 is crucial. A study has shown that 5.8% of SARS-CoV-2 infected and 18.4% of non-SARS-CoV-2-infected patients had other concurrent pathogen infections. Therefore, single target testing is not optimal; failure to distinguish between different pathogens may lead to unnecessary antimicrobial use, cross-infection of mis-grouped patients, and further spreading of the infection.
Simple, sensitive and multiplex detection of all respiratory pathogens is technically challenging. In response to the need for faster and better detection of multiple respiratory pathogens, GeneFirst has developed a prototype using its innovative proprietary technology – MPA (Multiplex Probe Amplification). The prototype will simultaneously detect and differentiate SARS-CoV-2 as well as 30 other common respiratory bacteria and viruses.
GeneFirst’s assay will allow for accurate, cost-effective and comprehensive diagnoses during the current outbreak, as well as future routine diagnosis. In this project, the consortium set out to analytically and clinically validate this assay on both high throughput and point of care platforms. This strategy provides maximum flexibility for screening and triage, allows better and faster care, alleviates pressures on healthcare systems, and improves patient recovery rates.
Dr Winnie Wu, COO at GeneFirst, said of the success:
“We are ecstatic with this outcome and all consortium partners are very excited to be involved in the project. For an SME, securing this funding allows GeneFirst to further its R&D and to deliver these crucial diagnostics at scale and pace in time for the winter season. We have pulled together a great project team for the delivery.
“We credit our bid success to the RedKnight team; without their support, we would not have been able to achieve what we did in the short time needed to submit the application. We found RedKnight to be professional and diligent, and it has been a real pleasure working with them. This is our first collaborative opportunity and I am confident that our partnership will continue into the future.”
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