Firm set to provide rapid urine test for malaria
Determined to reduce the burden of malaria in Nigeria, a biomedical firm, Fyodor Biotechnologies, is set to provide an easy and quick urine test for diagnosis before treatment as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to the WHO, malaria remains the single most deadly global health disease, and about half a million people die of it globally every year. The WHO and the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) recommend diagnosis before treatment in all cases of fever.
Chief Executive Officer of Fyodor Biotechnologies, Dr. Eddy C. Agbo, in a chat with journalists wants people to get diagnosed quickly and easily, right in their homes, so they can seek early treatment. “Test before you treat for malaria,” he insisted.
Agbo said the company is set to unveil the Urine Malaria Test (UMT) on November 11, 2015 at the National Hospital, Abuja.
Agbo, a Nigerian born American and a Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, United States, where he worked on diagnostic and therapeutic biomarker discovery.
He has over 15 years of biomedical research and direct product development experience in university and industry settings. He is the lead inventor on pending genotyping and diagnostic biomarker patents, and author of numerous scientific publications in peer reviewed journals, including Science, Nature, Transactions of the Biochemical Society UK, Trends in Parasitology, and Trends in Microbiology, Parasitology, Experimental Parasitology, and Chromosome.
Agbo earned his PhD in Molecular Genetics from Utrecht University, MS in Biotechnology from Wageningen University, both in The Netherlands, and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), degree from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He founded Fyodor in 2008, and his company won a minority-owned business achievement award from the Greater Baltimore Committee last fall.
On what is the UMT is all about, Agbo said: “The UMT technology is a very simple, no blood, no reagents, no equipment test that tells you in 25 minutes or less if a fever is due to malaria or not. It is new and the first and only one of its kind in the world.”
On the motivation for inventing the product, he explained: “I grew up as a child in Nigeria, and during my own time, malaria was worse than it is today and more so, you get to a point in your life, you want to start to give back to the system that has helped you, I was motivated by the fact that, this is a technology that could help millions of people and I decided to commit seven years of my life to make it happen.”
How long did it take to invent it? Agbo said: “It took seven year for this product to be come a marketable product. Because of its simplicity, anybody, anywhere, can do the test. Records have it that malaria has reduced over the years, so what was the reason for this kind of technology?
“This is the type of technologies needed the most, because now, most fevers are not due to malaria, so one will want to confirm that a particular fever is due to malaria or not, so people can appropriately treat the disease in question when they find out it is not malaria.
I do not think it will urge self-medication, rather it will make people know what they are treating, right now for many people, every fever is malaria, but we know that is not, so this test rather than urging self-medication, will really clarify what the person is being tested for.
It is currently being manufactured in the United States (US), so is a made in US product, but we are making plans already to begin the local production in Nigeria.
“Absolutely, we validated the test, the clinical trials was done to international standards, because we are already working to register the product for use in other parts of the world including the US, so it is validated to the US standard.”
On whether the product has been validated by regulating agencies, the biochemist said: “Yes, over 2,000 participants were enrolled for pivotal clinical trials in Ikorodu, Lagos, which we partnered with College of Medicine, University of Lagos, FMoH, Nigeria, National Malaria Elimination Program and World Health Organization (WHO), NPO Southwest, Nigeria.
“We started the validation in Nigeria in August 2013 and we rounded up in March 2014. The UMT is approved by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and has been endorsed by the FMoH, Nigeria.”
There are other malaria test technologies out there, what stands the UMT out? He explained: “Well, the UMT is the novel one, it does not require blood, it is one step and not complicated to do, and result are gotten quickly, and most of it, it is accurate.
“It is going to be affordable and much less expensive than the current test that is done in the pharmacies or hospitals, so doctors are able to deliver the UMT to patients less costly than the current blood test.
Every of the test pack has a product code, so one can scratch off the code and text the code to the number 1393, and you get a message back weather it is valid or not.
“Within 25 minutes or less, it will tell you if your fever is due to malaria or not and this was based on a technology developed from the famous john Hopkins university in the US, and also from our company in the US.
It is going to be very available; one should be able to find the product in pharmacies, patent medicine stores, medical laboratories, nurses’ clinics and every health care facility.
“It can be used in any part of the world where you have plasmodium falciparum malaria, so it is very specific to the type of malaria that occurs mostly in Nigeria.”
On how the UMT works, Agbo explained: “You collect urine, using any container, the test kits has the sample cup, so just pour the urine into the sample cup up to the mark and dip the strip in it and let it stand in the urine for 20 minutes, within that time, if two lines shows up on the white section of the stripe, it is malaria, if one line shows up, it is not malaria. The stripe carries the Nigerian colors to show that is Nigeria’s contribution to fighting malaria in the world.”
He said the shelf life is two years from the date of manufacture.
You said it will be available in virtually all health outlets in the country, how do you intend to market the UMT within to cover that reach? “Fyodor is partnering with Geneith Pharmaceuticals, Lagos for the marketing, sales and distribution of the UMT in the country,” he explained.
What impact will it contribute to the health sector and to Nigerians at large?
Agbo said: “People can now take charge of their health, assuredly, you are no longer guessing if all fever you experience is malaria, typhoid or other wise. People can now rule out malaria. With early detections and treatments, malaria mortality rates will reduce.”
Any plans for an invention on typhoid test? He said: “Our company has started to develop another test that will include typhoid and malaria, so on one stripe, you can tell if the fever is malaria or typhoid, and that is going to come to Nigeria within two years.”
Are there any partnerships and collaborations? He said: “Yes, to subject the UMT to rigorous test in a full scale pivotal clinical trial, the pre – clinical and clinical validation studies were conducted both in Nigeria and the US, so Fyodor collaborated with The College of Medline, University of Lagos, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, John Hopkins University, US, Duke University, US, FMoH, National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), NAFDAC, among others.”