Biotech company raises £2.4m for ‘breakthrough’ TB test

A Nottingham company which has devised a blood test that could revolutionise management of tuberculosis (TB) has raised a further £2.4m to further develop the test and support clinical trials.

The funding for PBD Biotech has come from a consortium led by fund managers Mercia and Foresight Group, both investing from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, alongside the University of Nottingham and private investors.

TB is the world’s most fatal infectious disease after Covid – although treatable, it is difficult to identify carriers requiring treatment. PBD Biotech, which is a spin-out from the University of Nottingham, has developed a rapid screening test that can identify infection at an early stage.

Clinical trials at the University of Leicester have shown that its Actiphage® test is able to diagnose human TB before the patient develops symptoms. By enabling rapid screening of a population, it offers a breakthrough in disease prevention and treatment. Further trials of Actiphage are currently running in the UK, South Africa and Zambia.

The latest funding round follows a £2.3m investment in March 2021 to help the company validate a test for bovine TB. Due to strong commercial interest the focus has now switched to developing a test for bovine paratuberculosis or Johne’s disease and the human TB test. The company is in talks with a number of potential partners around the world.

Jane Theaker, CEO of PBD Biotech, said: “We are delighted to receive follow-on funding from this supportive group of investors. Since the last round in March 2021, clinical trials have shown that Actiphage could detect non-symptomatic carriers and identify those that would later develop TB. This breakthrough has excited public health professionals worldwide. The follow-on funding will be used to further develop Actiphage to address this global unmet need.”

Sandy Reid of Mercia said: “While TB is regarded as a disease of the developing world, it is a major burden globally with around 10 million active infections at any one time. PBD’s test not only detects the disease at an early stage, but could also be used to select the correct antibiotic and monitor patients undergoing treatment. The funding will help the company build further evidence of the test’s effectiveness.”

Ray Harris of Foresigh, added: “We’re delighted to again be supporting PBD as the team work to address one of the world’s most fatal diseases and make breakthroughs in disease prevention and treatment.”

Mark Wilcockson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “The MEIF continues to support innovative companies offering world-leading solutions based in the Midlands, many of which start as spinouts from the region’s leading universities. This type of investment shows the MEIF’s ongoing role in supporting the region to become a hotbed of innovation and support for SMEs.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund and Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund projects are supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.