Ultra-low cost, rapid diagnosis of livestock diseases in Africa

CIEL helps secure vital funding to apply novel technology to a real-world veterinary challenge

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
Veterinary diagnostics company Biotangents were actively seeking opportunities to exploit a 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
CIEL was aware of immediate challenges requiring rapid diagnostics in Sub-Saharan Africa having recently met with a major African veterinary group. They also knew of 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 with a long-term interest in R&D. 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.

The newly formed consortium was eligible to apply for a call from the Department for International Development (DFID) 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.

As part of 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 provided project management support and helped to disseminate findings to wider industry partners as the team embarked on developing Biotangents’ technology platform.

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.

CIEL’s support throughout the lifetime of this project has been invaluable – from bringing us together with the right project partner and helping to secure funding, to subsequent project management. We look forward to working with the team in the future.

Dr Andy Hall-Ponselè, Director of Operations, Biotangents