American Leprosy Missions Launches Groundbreaking Skin Disease Diagnostics Development with Funding Support from Anesvad Foundation
May 8, 2023
(Greenville, S.C., May 8, 2023) – American Leprosy Missions (ALM) is pleased to announce a groundbreaking project in molecular diagnostics to simultaneously detect five skin neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Skin NTDs are the third most prevalent cause of illness worldwide and among the top ten causes for disability, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Skin NTDs require similar detection and management approaches, and molecular diagnostics are used to identify five diseases: leprosy, Buruli ulcer (BU), yaws, cutaneous leishmaniasis and mycetoma. With funding from the Anesvad Foundation and the Raoul Follereau Foundation, ALM will apply its experience in diagnostic assay development to create a multiplex assay to simultaneously detect these five skin NTDs.
ALM initiated a research and sales agreement with Biomeme, Inc. in 2020 to research and develop field-friendly, molecular diagnostics for NTDs. Biomeme’s innovative platform provides a novel polymerase chain reaction (PCR) workflow via a mobile thermocycler and the user’s smart phone. This combination creates a battery-powered, mobile lab for advanced DNA and RNA detection and real-time disease surveillance, delivering test results in 30-45 minutes that can otherwise take 6-9 months in low-resource settings. Biomeme qPCR machines deliver advanced performance without electricity, centrifugation, or cold chain logistics, making them an affordable option adapted to point-of-need settings.
Over the past two years, in collaboration with the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) in Ghana, the Schieffelin Institute of Health – Research and Leprosy Centre in India, and the Centre Pasteur of Cameroon (CPC), ALM has developed two assays for use with the Biomeme qPCR system. An assay to diagnose BU is ready for WHO prequalification evaluation, and a leprosy assay is entering a multicentric evaluation phase. Both assays demonstrate a high level of diagnostic accuracy, inspiring this new undertaking: one multiplex assay to detect five skin NTDs with a single test.
“Together, Biomeme’s qPCR technology and a multiplex assay have enormous potential to change NTDs diagnosis,” notes ALM’s Executive Vice President of Programs, Stefanie Weiland. “This project targets some of the biggest barriers to early identification of skin NTDs, which is needed to achieve elimination. Accurate diagnostic testing that has been confined to sophisticated lab settings can move to the field, removing significant expenses and delays. We’re grateful for Anesvad’s commitment to realizing this critical shift in diagnostics.”
Seven research laboratories in Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Sudan will perform the tests for the multiplex assay development. Each of these countries is considered endemic for the five skin NTDs targeted by the assay, and five of the laboratories are also members of the Buruli Ulcer Laboratory Network (BULAB-NET): a consortium of 13 labs across nine West African countries, co-founded by ALM and funded by both ALM and Anesvad. Raoul Follereau Foundation, another ALM partner and founding member of ILEP, will provide technical and financial support for two of the laboratories.
“Anesvad Foundation has made a great effort to support this research with the aspiration that we can improve the early diagnosis of some of the most neglected skin diseases in which we work,” says Iñigo Lasa, Anesvad Foundation’s General Manager. “We believe that this improved diagnosis will undoubtedly contribute to the improvement of public health systems and the quality of life of those affected.”
Max Perelman, Biomeme’s Co-Founder and Business Lead, adds: “We are thrilled to partner with ALM’s team of experts dedicated to combatting neglected tropical diseases. This collaboration underscores Biomeme’s expansion into healthcare and demonstrates our commitment to leveraging our expertise in mobile point-of-care molecular testing beyond our historical portfolio of biosecurity and environmental surveillance solutions. Building upon our successful pandemic response efforts, we are proud to contribute to the fight against NTDs and to drive forward the innovative solutions that can improve healthcare outcomes around the world.”
About American Leprosy Missions
American Leprosy Missions is the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to breaking down barriers to health and restoring hope for people suffering from the pain and stigma of neglected tropical diseases like leprosy. It currently supports projects, programs and partners in more than 25 countries in Africa, Asia and South America. Since its founding in 1906, American Leprosy Missions has provided holistic healing to more than four million people around the world, including through medical treatment, health worker training, disease mapping, community development, health system strengthening and research.
Sarah Hesshaus, Vice President of Business Process and Communications
+1 864.241.1731 | [email protected]
About Biomeme, Inc.
Biomeme is a cutting-edge company in molecular detection with a strong history of innovation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company developed a range of solutions that include a fast and accurate SARS-CoV-2 test for point-of-need use, helping identify infected individuals and contain the spread of the virus. Biomeme also focuses on developing host response diagnostic solutions and novel isothermal chemistries that have significant implications for disease diagnosis and treatment. With a suite of end-to-end mobile molecular solutions, Biomeme offers a comprehensive range of tools that can be used in a variety of settings, positioning the company as a leader in this field. By combining expertise in biology, chemistry, hardware, and software engineering, Biomeme is dedicated to creating elegant solutions to complex problems, transforming the way we approach healthcare.
Learn more at biomeme.com.
Tom Cook, Marketing & Product Management
+1 267.930.7707 | [email protected]
About Anesvad Foundation
Anesvad Foundation focuses on neglected tropical diseases – those that nobody sees. We have spent over 50 years working to guarantee access to health for people who live in the world’s most impoverished communities by strengthening public health systems, supporting research, and working with strategic alliances to drive projects forward. We work with health ministries, civil society, international and national foundations, networks, research centres, universities… because universal health is a right, not a privilege.
Miren Hualde, Head of Communications
+34 660.008.240 | [email protected]
About Raoul Follereau Foundation
A private charitable organization, the Raoul Follereau Foundation continues the path traced by its founder by fighting against exclusion, whether caused by illness, ignorance or poverty. The Foundation does this by placing people, without distinction of origin or religion, at the heart of its projects and by favoring in-depth actions aimed at providing care or facilitating education, training and reintegration. The Foundation has been operating in France and internationally for 70 years, thanks to the mobilization of a generous community which brings together donors, partners, volunteers and employees.
“To live is to help others to live.” – Raoul Follereau
Yann de Rauglaudre, Director of Development and Communication
+33 01. 70. 38. 92. 82 | [email protected]