11.03.2019 – UZH molecular biologist Prajwal and a team of researchers have developed a comprehensive rapid diagnostic test for multi-resistent tuberbulosis pathogens. Their work was made possible thanks to the UZH Entrepreneur Fellowship, which is financed by the Werner Siemens Foundation and encourages and supports young UZH researchers to transform their scientific knowledge and technologies into commercial enterprises.

Prajwal final 1000Dr. Prajwal working at the Institute of Laboratory Animal Science. (Image: Nathalie Huber)

Tuberculosis is a highly infectious bacterial disease. Anyone who gets infected with the extremely resistant pathogens can no longer be treated with common antibiotics. Each year, some 10.4 million people all over the world are infected with tuberculosis and 1.4 million people succumb to the disease. Cases of multi-resistant and extremely resistant tuberculosis are on the rise worldwide – especially in countries of the former Soviet Union, Africa and Asia. “One of the reasons for this is that current diagnostic tests either take too long or are too inaccurate to identify the pathogens and their resistances,” explains UZH molecular biologist Prajwal.

Resistance tested for all relevant antibiotics
This is the gap that the India-born researcher wants to close with a new, rapid diagnostic test for tuberculosis. The rapid test determines whether a bacterial tuberculosis infection has occurred and which antibiotics could be effective against the pathogen. “Our test checks for resistances against all relevant antibiotics directly in the patient sample and delivers results within only 24 hours,” explains Prajwal. This means that anyone who’s been infected can be treated with the right antibiotics much sooner. By comparison, using a bacteria culture test to check for resistances takes considerably longer – up 10 weeks if it has to cover the entire range of antibiotics.

Diagnostic laboratories as potential customers
The processes and software necessary for the rapid test will be sold to labs as a kind of diagnostics kit. This is the business idea that Prajwal is pursuing together with German bioinformatics expert Sebastian Dümcke. With the required equipment, labs will be able to perform the Zurich-developed test independently.

Founding of spin-off Clemedi
Prajwal and Dümcke want to introduce their new test on European markets as quickly as possible, followed by roll-out on global markets. “We need further investors to do that,” says the UZH researcher. Together with Sebastian Dümcke, he’s founded Clemedi, a spin-off business that also includes Thorsten Buch, UZH professor of laboratory animal science, and Peter Keller, tuberculosis expert and former UZH professor, as scientific advisors and co-founders. Clemedi’s vision is to develop further diagnostic tests for multi-resistant infectious pathogens, such as sexually transmitted or hospital-acquired infections.

Source: UZH News

UZH Entrepreneur-Fellowships

The University of Zurich supports young researchers working in biotechnology, medical technology and in the future also digital technology through its UZH Entrepreneur Fellowship program with 150,000 Swiss francs over 18 months. The researchers take part in the BioEntrepreneurship & Innovation (BEI) program for one year in which they gain insight into topics that are key for establishing a spin-off, such as intellectual property rights, business plans or negotiation strategies. The researchers can also draw on the subject-specific expertise of UZH specialists and external consultants.

The UZH Incubator Lab provides UZH Entrepreneur Fellows with access to first-class research infrastructure for medtech and biotech projects. Thanks to the generous donation of the Werner Siemens Foundation, the lab space was installed at the Institute of Regenerative Medicine (IREM) at the Bio-Technopark in Schlieren in 2018.


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