Welcome to issue #8 of our recently launched Q&A series, Startup Spotlight.

This series is all about diving into the world-class technological innovation conducted by exciting UK startups. Getting to grips with the technology, the mission, and even the stories behind them.

In each edition, we sit down with a different startup founder, leader, or operator in an easily digestible conversational style Q&A format.

Today, we interviewed Jane Theaker, CEO of PBD Biotech, to find out how they’re tackling the devastating issue of TB, and other infectious diseases, with the use of “bacteriophage”, so doctors can better treat their patients. 

Highlights

  • 🦠 Using 'bacteriophage' to better identify the stages of infectious diseases
  • 🧪 The challenges of clinical trials
  • 🩺 Aiding doctors in identifying the root cause

Infectious diseases will always be one of the most prudent issues on our Earth.

Past events, such as the black plague, and even more recent events like the coronavirus pandemic, have shown to us all, that if action isn’t taken early to quell these diseases, it can be terrifying for us all.

Thinking about how the future of the medical industry will evolve, can boggle the mind of the average person. How do you increase survival rates? What measures are needed to make sure that a disease is not only challenge-less but more treatable?

Luckily, PDB Biotech are on the case. Introducing a new process into the medical world, they’ve managed to crack the code on these diseases. 

PDB Biotech was founded in 2014, and developed a new medical process that targets destructive diseases, with their main target being tuberculosis. 

Their work has won them the 2019 Royal Dairy Innovation Award for their efforts in agriculture, the 2020 Cream Award for Innovation, and the 2021 Vet Record Innovation Award, all for impact in multiple industries.  

Through their development into infectious diseases, the healthcare industry has taken leaps and bounds into their diagnostic procedures, correctly analysing the stages of these diseases within human patients, and even within animals. 

With the correct analysis, doctors can correctly diagnose and treat afflicted patients, with much greater accuracy than has ever been achieved before, in human history. 

Not only that, PBD Biotech have also made great strides within the agriculture industry, with their work in targeting Johnes Disease in bovine animals. By using the same technology for TB, Johnes Disease can be identified within cattle, and can be treated at a much earlier stage, before it becomes chronic and fatal. 

The work they have done will go on to save numerous lives, and it’s something to commend, and respect, for their efforts. Backed by a strong team of experts, from the medical industry, and others, it’s exciting to imagine the future endeavours that this company will bring, and how they’ll better the world with their passion, knowledge, and expertise.

We spoke to the CEO of PDB Biotech, Jane Theaker, to better understand just how revolutionary this new process for identifying the different stages of these diseases, actually is. 👇

What is the mission of your company?

Our company is trying to do something amazing-eradicate TB using a rather clever diagnostic technology. TB affects a quarter of the world’s population and is a huge killer. With 1.9BN sufferers of TB globally and rising levels of drug resistance, we need all the help possible to eradicate this terrible disease. 

We know that sickness and poverty go hand-in-hand and disproportionately affect women and children and areas of war.  We want to help break the cycle by ensuring prompt diagnosis of those that would benefit from treatment.  Identifying the root cause is 80% of the solution!

How are you using technology to help solve that problem?

Our technology uses “bacteriophage” which are friendly viruses that infect the bacteria in a blood sample that cause TB and pop them open. This releases the DNA, so we can do a PCR test on it.

What's your unique selling point?  

Our test can tell doctors which patients are going to progress from latent TB to active infectious TB.  

This allows doctors to treat the patients before the TB can spread to others. This is possible because the friendly bacteriophage in our kits love to infect living bacteria, not dead bacteria. They like a fresh meal! 

Live bacteria in the blood is a key sign that the body’s immune system is losing control of the infection, and these are the patients who are likely to progress to full-blown active disease.

What have been the greatest challenges to date? 

Proving our test is clinically sensitive and specific has been quite a long process. Recruiting patients and following them to see how they progress takes time, so the clinical trials can be quite lengthy.

What major milestones have you achieved, and what's next?  

We have shown that our test is both sensitive and specific and can identify those patients who are more likely to “tip over” into active disease.  

We now have trials in South Africa and Zambia and further planned trials to show that our test can be applied to patients who have TB with other diseases (like HIV). 

Not only that, but we also want to see if our test can be used in children where the conventional test, culturing a sputum sample, is not possible because children and babies can’t produce sputum samples for culture. A blood test would be ideal in children.

Thanks, Jane!

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