The development of Exatype is in response to staggering statistics that show that of the 3.1 million South Africans currently on ARV treatment, almost 10% do not respond adequately to the first line drugs that are provided to them. The Department of Science and Technology, through the SAMRC, is funding medical innovations to improve the ability of clinicians to diagnose HIV drug resistant patients.
“We are delighted to have been a part of this programme and to demonstrate that South African innovation can indeed be used to address local health priorities,” says Dr Richard Gordon, Executive Director – Grants, Innovation and Product Development at the SAMRC. The Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships (SHIP) funding model introduced to the SAMRC and spearheaded by Gordon is starting to deliver.
The DNA of the virus is sequenced using Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology and the results uploaded to a web-based system. The data is analysed using Exatype to quickly and accurately produce an easy-to-interpret report showing the clinician which drugs would be most effective for that individual patient at that time.
The technology, developed by Prof Simon Travers and his team of researchers based at the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), has been tested in collaboration with a number of researchers and laboratories in South Africa and is being further developed and commercialized through Hyrax Biosciences. Although initially focusing on HIV drug resistance testing, solutions for TB and antibiotic resistance testing are also being developed.
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