Sydney-based medical device company Atomo Diagnostics has announced it is the recipient of a US$2.6 million (A$3.6 million) grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a next-generation HIV self-test.
The company said grant will support development of an affordable, reliable and simple HIV rapid diagnostic test to enable people in resource-poor countries to test themselves.
"Combined with recent equity funding from New York based Global Health Investment Fund, this grant funding enables Atomo to continue to strengthen its position as a leader in the provision of low cost solutions delivering best-in-class usability, reliability and safety to countries most affected by the HIV pandemic," said the company.
It is thought HIV self-testing has potential to reach untested populations that are not currently accessing existing facilities-based testing services.
“This grant from the Gates Foundation is an important milestone for Atomo,” said CEO John Kelly. “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.”
Currently over 120 million HIV rapid diagnostic tests are used annually in resource-poor countries and, according to the World Health Organisation, demand for testing is projected to increase significantly until 2020. Self-testing is expected to be an increasingly important part of the program that will support the UNAIDS goal of ensuring that by 2020, ninety per cent of HIV positive people know their status.
In 2014, the company’s AtomoRapid HIV 1&2 professional use test won ‘Best in Show’ at the prestigious Medical Design Excellence Awards in New York. The device removes the need for multiple test components, making it simpler, safer and more convenient.
With this new grant funding, Atomo said it will develop a rapid diagnostic test device designed specifically to address the needs of millions of self-test users in low and middle-income countries. It said it intends to partner with researchers, health workers and end users in these markets to create a self-test solution that meets the needs of national public health systems and individual self-test users worldwide.