California Company Developing CD4+ Blood Test for Use in Developing Countries
Fullerton, Calif.-based Beckman Coulter is taking part in an international initiative to develop a type of blood test that can be used widely in developing countries to measure a person's CD4+ T cell count, the Orange County Register reports. The initiative -- which has received an $8.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- aims to create "simple finger-prick tests" to measure CD4+ counts. It is based at Imperial College London, which last year sought ideas from researchers worldwide on how to develop tests to measure the CD4+ counts of people living in areas without electricity. Beckman Coulter, which usually makes laboratory equipment, was one of four organizations this year to receive grants under the initiative. The other grants went to researchers at Zyomyx, Cornell University and the Barret Institute.
According to the Register, Beckman Coulter has begun work on a dipstick-style test strip that will draw blood upward to measure the concentration of a person's CD4+ cells. The device must be able to tell doctors if a person has a CD4+ count below 250 -- the level at which HIV-positive people typically begin antiretroviral therapy. The device also must be usable and accurate even in areas without electricity and when stored in warehouses where the temperatures can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Each test also should cost $3 or less. The initiative's deadline is 2011, but officials at Imperial College are encouraging researchers to finish by 2010. Researchers from all four organizations met last month at Cornell to share information that could aid the other research teams, according to the Register. Each organization will keep the rights to any discoveries made during the research process under the terms of the grant (Stewart, Orange County Register, 7/26).