National Institutes of Health awards contract to Framingham Company to develop cure test for Chagas disease – Framingham SOURCE


In full transparency, the following press release has been submitted to SOURCE media for publication.


FRAMINGHAM – The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), an agency of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded a $ 300,000 Innovative Research for Small Business (SBIR) Phase I contract to Kephera Diagnostics to develop a new test for Chagas disease, the company announced today, September 23.

The contract, awarded in response to a targeted solicitation from NIAID to improve diagnostic resources for Chagas disease, will support the development and preliminary evaluation of a test that can distinguish assets from successfully treated Chagas disease. .

Chagas disease, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, is mainly transmitted by an insect
called the kiss bug that is found in most Latin American countries and is now growing in the United States

It is the most common parasitic disease in the Western Hemisphere, infecting 6-7 million people with over 70 million at risk.

Additionally, the CDC estimates around 300,000 cases in the United States, mostly among people who contracted it in endemic countries, although some indigenous infections have also been reported.

Chagas can also be transmitted congenitally, through consumption of food contaminated with kissbugs, and through blood transfusion or organ transplants. Infection can lead to chronic illnesses that last for decades, with a higher risk of death from heart or digestive failure; up to a third of infections cause debilitating symptoms, while the rest are asymptomatic.

Treatment for Chagas disease currently relies on two drugs, benznidazole and nifurtimox, which were recently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for pediatric use.

Although they are very effective when used during an acute infection, the effectiveness of the drugs decreases in the chronic stage of the disease, treatment can be long, and side effects are common and sometimes serious.

With current methods, confirming whether a patient has been cured or not is a challenge and
prolonged process.

Currently, no hardening test is commercially available.

The lack of a cure test has also slowed the development of new drugs for Chagas disease, as their effectiveness can be difficult to measure in clinical studies.

“Chagas disease affects more than 300,000 people in the United States, but to date it has been overlooked. The lack of a cure test has been a critical gap in care. We are excited to be a part of this collaborative effort to solve this problem and improve care for our patients, ”said Dr. Natasha Hochberg of Boston University and Boston Medical Center, who will be a collaborator on the contract. .

With contract funding, Kephera plans to develop a test that will indicate the presence of active T. cruzi infection based on the detection of T. cruzi biomarkers in blood samples. The test will be translated both in the laboratory and at the point of care to meet the needs of clinical and field settings.

“We are very pleased to have been selected by NIAID for this award,” said Dr Andrew Levin, Managing Director of Kephera Diagnostics and Principal Investigator under the contract. “We look forward to working with our colleagues at Boston University to develop a Chagas disease cure test, which we believe will provide a major tool to aid in the clinical and public health management of the disease. , and is consistent with Kephera’s strategy. focus on improving the diagnosis of emerging and neglected diseases.

Kephera Diagnostics is a Framingham-based startup that aims to address the public health challenges of global infectious diseases with new point-of-care assay technology. Its mission is to promote more effective and affordable medical treatment through faster point-of-care diagnosis.

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