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Indian Institute of Technology, Madras to Develop Novel TB Diagnostic Tech

The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) is partnering with a public sector undertaking to develop a urine-based tuberculosis diagnosis or screening. The urine-based TB screening and diagnostic product is projected to surpass the speed and affordability of existing point-of-care diagnostic kits that are available for various diseases such as blood glucose monitors. The know-how and the relevant technologies will be made available to start-ups or diagnostic kit manufacturers.

According to a statement by IIT-Madras, primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare centers, as well as state and central government health departments, stand to benefit significantly from this project. Earlier this month, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed to establish this corporate social responsibility (CSR) partnership.

IIT-Madras’ Biosensors Laboratory is working to develop cutting-edge plasmonic fibre optic absorbance biosensor (P-FA8) technology. They have established a proof-of-concept for the detection of Upoaabinomannan (LAM), a commonly reported tuberculosis biomarker in urine, at the laboratory level. The findings of this research have been published in the Biosensors and Bioelectronics journal as an original article.

The statement said that the design and development of associated technologies for manufacturing fibre optic sensor probes and readout device schemes have been completed, and the technology has been transferred to two startups based in India and the United States. The next phase involves a methodical clinical validation study of the P-FAB diagnostic technology with TB patient samples. This research project aims to undertake this crucial task and advance the deployment of the technology in primary healthcare centers (PHCs). IIT-Madras will be developing the proof-of-concept for the urine-based TB screening/diagnosis. The know-how and the relevant technologies will be made available to start-ups or diagnostic kit manufacturers.

Tuberculosis is among the most prevalent infectious diseases in the country and the government launched the ‘End TB’ campaign targeted to be completed by 2025. However, efforts were hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Timely, easy, and accessible means of TB diagnosis are key to gaining control over the spread of the disease. The current techniques like cell-culture methods are limited by infrastructure, cost, or week-to-fortnight-long testing.

A rapid and sensitive screening test could quickly identify the actual cases among suspected cases and help in timely treatment and disease control. Collaboration between industry and academia is key to catalysing innovation and growth in technology. Associating with corporates and businesses, provides educational institutions access to more resources to fund and expand their research areas.

IIT-Madras has already developed and patented the technologies for fibre optic sensor probe fabrication and optoelectronic readout devices. The intellectual property will be licensed to the interested parties for the envisaged application on a case-to-case basis. This research project will help in establishing the proof-of-concept at the clinical level. Over two to three years, with the help of partnerships with appropriate industry partners, the product will be available for use and wide deployment, the statement said.

Last year, IIT-Madras developed PIVOT, an artificial intelligence (AI)-based tool that can predict cancer-causing genes. The Institute said the tool will ultimately help devise personalised cancer treatment strategies. As OpenGov Asia reported, PIVOT predicts cancer-causing genes using a model that utilises information on mutations, expression of genes, and copy number variation in genes and perturbations in the biological network that results from an altered gene expression. The tool applies machine learning (ML) to classify genes as tumour suppressor genes, oncogenes, or neutral genes.

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