Innovation in Action – Member Case Study: Biotangents

Founded in 2015, Biotangents are developing on-farm diagnostics to detect nucleic acid signatures from pathogenic organisms. Using the patent-pending Moduleic Sensing™ platform technology, users can rapidly and accurately diagnose the presence of the pathogen, allowing effective management decisions to be made earlier and reducing further disease spread.

Setting the scene

Livestock provide an invaluable source of protein to developing nations. In Africa, livestock also play a crucial role in developing economies with 80% of farmland being managed by small-holding farms (FAO, 2008). Outbreak of disease can have a catastrophic impact to African farmers, having both financial and nutritional consequences. Contagious Bovine and Caprine Pleuropneumonias (CBPP and CCPP) are two such diseases, particularly prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, causing severe mortality and morbidity of cattle and goats.
 
The challenge

Biotangents were actively seeking opportunities to exploit this novel diagnostic technology that they had developed in-house to detect disease-causing microbes. Experts in synthetic biology, Biotangents were looking for partnerships to apply their technology to real-world problems and for further investment to support their technology translation into a workable prototype.
 
The solution

Having recently met with a major African veterinary group, CIEL was aware of the immediate challenges requiring rapid diagnostics, along with suitable grant funding that could be used to help accelerate a potential collaborative project.

CIEL brought Biotangents together with Sidai Africa; a social enterprise company operating in the livestock sector in Kenya. Sidai are working towards establishing a network of Livestock Centres across the country to provide quality animal health products and professional technical services to the farming community and had a long-term interest in R&D.

The consortium was eligible to apply for a call from the Department for International Development (DFID) as part of the Agri-Tech Catalyst fund. This competitive call enables overseas partners to benefit from UK technology and skills, whilst providing UK companies with a valuable opportunity to enter new markets.

Joining the project team, CIEL helped prepare the bid as the UK-Kenyan consortium set about creating a much-needed, exciting new product: a new diagnostic test which would allow for detection of CBPP/CCPP-infected animals, on-farm, allowing more rapid husbandry decisions to be made and helping to prevent disease spread throughout the herd.
 
Outcome

The consortium successfully secured £397,000 from DFID. This early win separately enabled Biotangents to leverage subsequent equity-based finance from private investors.

Funding in place, CIEL is providing project management support and helping to disseminate findings to wider industry partners as the team embarks on developing Biotangents’ technology platform and applying it to a real-world veterinary challenge.
 
Impact

Biotangents’ novel platform technology offers the potential of significant benefits for Kenya: Early diagnosis of CBPP/CCPP will improve farm economic performance; reduce unnecessary veterinary interventions; help support surveillance programmes for this notifiable disease; and ultimately give the country a chance to open-up beef production to a valuable export market.

Biotangents have benefited from the project, expanding from a team of 5 to 10, securing further vital investment and advancing the Moduleic Sensing™ platform technology.

Alan Hale, CEO at Biotangents, said “We are delighted to have secured the opportunity to work with CIEL and Sidai Africa, and apply the DFID funding to our in-house technology, Moduleic Sensing™, to develop reliable diagnostics for Contagious Bovine/Caprine Pleuropneumonia. These are critical diseases, widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, and this work offers the opportunity to move to the next key stage: developing a pen-side prototype for field testing.”