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Australian medical innovator receives US$2.6 million Bill & Melinda Gates grant to develop a next-generation HIV self-test


Sydney-based medical device innovator Atomo Diagnostics recently announced it is the recipient of a US$2.6 million (A$3.6 million) grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a next-generation HIV self-test.

The grant will support development of an affordable, reliable and simple HIV rapid diagnostic test that will enable people in resource-poor countries to test themselves. Combined with recent equity funding from New York based Global Health Investment Fund, this grant funding enables Atomo to continue to strengthen its position as a leader in the provision of low cost solutions delivering best-in-class usability, reliability and safety to countries most affected by the HIV pandemic.

The consensus opinion of the global health community is that HIV self-testing has unique potential to reach untested populations that are not accessing existing facilities-based testing services; particularly those at high risk of HIV infection that require more frequent testing. Currently there are very few affordable and easy-to-use HIV self-tests available to people in developing countries.

What exactly does Atomo do?

Atomo Diagnostics is an innovative medical device design and manufacturing company based in Sydney, Australia, with corporate offices in South Africa and the UK.

The company specializes in the commercialization of rapid diagnostic test (RDT) solutions that use capillary blood. Its refreshing, user-centric approach to development and a willingness to reimagine what has gone before, has led Atomo to create a range of award winning solutions that are simpler and safer to use, and so help to prevent common user errors and the misdiagnosis of diseases.

Atomo’s convenient integrated all-in-one devices put the user first, and make it easy to screen for a range of infection diseased and chronic conditions in the field and in the home.

What does this Bill Gates grant mean for Atomo?

“This grant from the Gates Foundation is an important milestone for Atomo,” said CEO John Kelly. “We have sought always to develop simple, low-cost solutions that remove errors common with the current generation of ‘bits in a box’ test kits. This grant is an endorsement of our innovative user-friendly approach to testing and our commitment to making a positive impact on global health.”

Currently over 120 million HIV rapid diagnostic tests are used annually in resource-poor countries and, according to the World Health Organization, demand for testing is projected to increase significantly until 2020. Self-testing is expected to be anincreasingly important part of the program that will support the UNAIDS goal of ensuring that by 2020, ninety percent of HIV positive people know their status.

The development of a new, next-generation rapid HIV self-test for global health markets will draw upon Atomo’s expertise and track record of success in this field.  In 2014, the company’s AtomoRapid™ HIV 1&2 professional use test won ‘Best in Show’ at the prestigious Medical Design Excellence Awards in New York. The unique device removes the need for multiple test components, making it simpler, safer and more convenient.

With this new grant funding, Atomo will develop a rapid diagnostic test device designed specifically to address the needs of millions of self-test users in low and middle-income countries. A key component of this grant-funded program will be engaging with public and private sector partners in developing countries to support commercial launch in key markets with significant HIV burdens. Atomo intends to partner with researchers, health workers and end users in these markets to create a self-test solution that meets the needs of national public health systems and individual self-test users worldwide.