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GEN News Highlights : Feb 3, 2011

FIND Pledges $5M for Collaboration with Cepheid to Develop GeneXpert HIV Test

Viral load assay will be made available at concessionary prices to public and non-for-profit providers.

FIND (Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics) has agreed to put $5 million into a collaboration with Cepheid that aims to speed the development of a molecular test for measuring HIV viral load, for use on Cepheid’s GeneXpert® platform. Under terms of the deal, FIND’s financial input for development costs will be spread across the life of the project, with the last payment expected during the first quarter of 2013. Once the Expert HIV viral load test is commercialized, FIND will also have rights to secure concessionary pricing for both this test and Cepheid’s Xpert Chlamydia and Xpert Gonorrhea test, for public and non-for-profit sector in a number of countries. The chlamydia and gonorrhea tests are also still currently under development.

Cepheid expects the Xpert HIV viral load test to complement its Xpert MTB/RIF test for tuberculosis and drug resistance, which was endorsed by WHO in late 2010. Xpert MTB/RIF was developed through a collaboration between Cepheid, FIND, and other partners. The firm says that despite WHO recommending back in 2004 that there should be a greater drive to tackle the problems associated with managing joint HIV and TB infections, one of the biggest hurdles is still the lack of combined services. It suggests that an HIV viral load test that can be run on the same machine as the Xpert MTB/RIF test could address this issue and possibly springboard new, more holistic approaches to managing TB/HIV co-infection.

“Given the particular challenges presented by HIV and TB co-infection, we believe that the Xpert HIV viral load test will be an excellent complement to Xpert MTB/RIF, dramatically improving endemic countries’ capacity to diagnose and manage these infections,” comments Giorgio Roscigno, Ph.D., FIND CEO. “This new collaboration confirms the possibility of creating diagnostic platforms for several diseases, thus extending the reach of scarce resources intended to combat them.”

Cepheid claims the GeneXpert platform is the first to fully automate and integrate all the steps required for PCR-based DNA testing, including sample preparation, DNA amplification, and detection. Designed to ease hands-on preparation, the system provides PCR test results from a raw sample in about an hour.