Funding. News - 29 March 2021

Nottingham biotech firm raises £2.3m for ‘game changing’ test to combat bovine TB

A University of Nottingham spin-out which has developed a rapid test that could be a ‘game changer’ in combatting tuberculosis in livestock has secured a £2.3m investment to help bring its product to market.

The funding for PBD Biotech has come from a consortium led by fund managers Mercia and the Foresight Group, which were both investing through the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF); the University of Nottingham; the government’s Future Fund; and private investors including farmers and veterinary practices.

The funding will allow the company to take its Actiphage® test through to validation by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) which will enable it to be adopted internationally.

Bovine TB is a major problem in terms of animal welfare, resulting in the slaughter of over 300,000 cattle in Great Britain in the past decade and costing the UK taxpayer £500m. The disease can spread to other animals including badgers and is thought to cause both TB and Crohn’s disease in humans.

The current skin test uses the animal’s immune response to indicate the level of infection and can miss up to 50% of infected cattle. By contrast, Actiphage detects the mycobacteria,  which cause disease, from a blood or milk sample. It is faster and more accurate, allowing farmers to identify infected animals at an early stage and remove them from the herd. Potential uses include rapid screening of cattle prior to movement, quality assurance in dairy products and to differentiate infected animals from those that are vaccinated, paving the way for the introduction of a vaccination programme.

Actiphage recently won the British Veterinary Association Innovation Award 2021 and was described as ‘having the potential to be a game changer in tackling bovine TB’. There is also potential for the test to be adapted for use in humans. PBD Biotech is based at the University of Nottingham with an office in Thurston, Suffolk. The company currently employs six people and expects to create more than 10 new jobs over the next three years.

Deliver huge economic benefits to farmers globally

Mark Hammond, CEO of PBD Biotech, says: “It has been shown on-farm that when Actiphage is used within a disease management strategy it is possible to eliminate bovine TB from a herd and maintain a disease-free status. There is a significant international unmet need for a rapid test like Actiphage; with this funding we will be able to perform the validation studies required for regulatory approval and drive commercialisation of the technology.”

Sajeeda Rose, chief executive of the D2N2 LEP, said: “I’m pleased to see continued investment by the Midlands Engine Investment Fund into innovative businesses. It is great to see a University of Nottingham spin-out doing well, with the investment allowing PDB Biotech to accelerate its growth, and continue its research and development to transform disease diagnosis and deliver huge economic benefits to farmers globally.”

Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF)

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund is a collaboration between the British Business Bank and ten Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the West Midlands and East Midlands.

The MEIF is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the European Investment Bank, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and British Business Finance Ltd.

It provides a range of affordable financial products to small and medium-sized businesses (SME) across the D2N2 region such as Small Business Loans, Debt, Equity and Proof of Concept funds to help businesses achieve their growth ambitions.

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund provides over £250m of investment to boost SME growth in the Midlands Engine Investment Fund area. The D2N2 ERDF contribution to MEIF is £11.75m.

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