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LGC partners with science leaders to develop rapid in-clinic STI detection kits

06 Dec 2010

LGC heads up development of ultra-rapid detection system of sexually transmitted infections using HyBeacons® technology

LGC scientists, in collaboration with OptiGene and the University of Southampton, are using LGC’s HyBeacons® technology* to develop an ultra-rapid sexually transmitted infection (STI) detection system for clinics.

LGC, a leading international science-based company and recognised leader in chemical and biological analytical services and reference materials, is leading the project (known as Client - Clinic-based Infection Examination through Nucleic acid Technologies) which will receive substantial Technology Strategy Board funding. This Technology Strategy Board initiative, called Fighting Infection Through Detection, is aimed at developing clinical equipment and an assay that can detect sexually transmitted infections in under 15 minutes.

OptiGene, which is based in Horsham, West Sussex, will refine and manufacture the desktop amplification device for rapidly testing genetic markers for detection of STIs by the HyBeacon technology. The company is now developing the device to create a system for amplification that is faster than the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The device will have two-colour detection but nonetheless uses simpler instrumentation.

Professor Tom Brown in the School of Chemistry, University of Southampton, has worked with LGC to develop HyBeacons chemistry and, in this programme, will produce a new generation of more powerful fluorophore molecules to enable the HyBeacons probes to detect trace targets with greater accuracy and speed.

The Chlamydia Research Group School of Medicine, University of Southampton, works closely with the Health Protection Agency, based at Southampton General Hospital. In the Client project, novel and universally conserved sequences from sexually transmitted bacteria will be used as a basis for developing the tests. This team will also lead the collaboration in the design of the Client testing kits.

Dr Paul Debenham, LGC’s Director of Innovation & Development commented: “The goal of this project is to achieve a significant step forward in the fight against sexually transmitted infections. Simple, rapid testing, in the order of a 15 minute turnaround, will result in a significant step-change in the efficacy of STI treatment. LGC is extremely excited about the possibilities of this new near-patient diagnostic service”.

Michael Andreou, Director of OptiGene said: ““The prospect of applying our open-platform technology to such a high-profile and important area of clinical diagnostics is great news for everyone connected with OptiGene. As well as the important commercial advantages to the company that could result from this project, it is extremely satisfying to know that there will be wider benefits to the nation’s sexual health”.

Ian Clarke, Professor of Molecular Microbiology at Southampton University added: “The combination of LGC and OptiGene together with the University of Southampton is a unique industry – academic partnership that brings together the critical components necessary for the development of a novel, sensitive, accurate and extremely rapid point of care test that will revolutionise STI diagnostics”.

* HyBeacons® PCR probes are short fluorescently labelled DNA sequences that can be designed to detect sections of DNA sequence with a genetic variation. The central location of the fluorescent molecule within the probe has considerable advantages over probes that have signalling chemistry at the end of the DNA probe. LGC developed HyBeacons probes in response to forensic and medical requirements to identify key genetic differences between individuals, or to distinguish micro-organisms. The probes have unique characteristics that make them suitable for very rapid diagnostic and point-of-care applications. HyBeacons assays have been designed for use in medical genetic as well as infectious diagnostic testing.