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TB Diagnostics Developer Gains $1.5M in Early Financing

Illustration of lungs (Mikael Häggström/Wikimedia Commons)

(Mikael Häggström/Wikimedia Commons)

TB Biosciences, a biotechnology company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania developing genomics-based diagnostics for tuberculosis, received $1.5 million in its first fund-raising round after initial start-up. The financing was led by Bethlehem venture capital company Originate Ventures, joined by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania and the NYU Innovation Venture Fund.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial disease that most commonly affects the lungs and caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB bacteria are transmitted by droplets from the throat and lungs of people with the active form of the disease. People with healthy immune systems who inhale the bacteria will have a latent form of TB and not normally display symptoms. Those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to developing the active form of the disease, with symptoms including heavy cough, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.

In 2011, according to World Health Organization, 8.7 million people contracted TB resulting in 1.4 million deaths. WHO says TB ranks only behind HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide from a single infectious agent. Nearly all (95%) of TB deaths occur in low and medium-income countries.

TB Biosciences that started in May 2013, is developing a new type of point-of-care test for active tuberculosis, based on the research of NYU pathology professor Sumaan Laal, a founder of the company. Its technology identifies protein biomarkers in the genomes of people with active cases of TB, but not in the latent form, with a combination of peptides that the company says has a sensitivity of 90 percent. Current diagnostics based on sputum samples, the company says, sometimes have as little as half that rate of sensitivity.

The proceeds of the financing are expected to support further product development and clinical trials. Earlier this year, TB Biosciences received a Small Business Technology Transfer grant from National Institutes of Health, which when added to the venture funding makes more than $2.5 million available to develop the TB test, according to the company.

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