Framingham, MA – January 13, 2020. Kephera Diagnostics has been awarded a two-year, $600,000 Phase I SBIR grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to develop a point-of-care test for Neurocysticercosis, the company announced today. Neurocysticercosis is an infection of the central nervous system with the larval form of the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium. Humans are infected with the tapeworm through the consumption of undercooked pork. While the presence of a tapeworm does not tend to produce serious illness in the carrier and may go unnoticed, Cysticercosis results when eggs of the tapeworm, passed from carriers into the environment, are accidentally ingested. The eggs hatch into larvae which can travel to the central nervous system and encyst in the brain, leading to the neurological form of the disease, Neurocysticercosis. Depending on the numbers of cysts and their locations, Neurocysticercosis may result in a spectrum of symptoms, the more serious typically manifesting as epileptic-like seizures. If untreated, Neurocysticercosis may be incapacitating or fatal. Fortunately, Neurocysticercosis can be effectively treated by inexpensive drugs.
While less well known in the U.S., Neurocysticercosis is the most common neurological disease of infectious origin worldwide, accounting for about one third of all epilepsy cases in endemic countries. Estimates of the number of people infected globally range from 8 to 50 million according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and other sources, with endemic regions spanning much of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and extending into Europe. The disease has been brought to the U.S. largely through immigrants who acquired it elsewhere, with 221 deaths reported over a 13 year period. The economic burden of Cysticercosis, estimated at 2.8 million disability-adjusted life years, underscores its ranking by WHO as one of the top causes of foodborne death and disability worldwide. The medical and economic impact of Cysticercosis has led to sustained efforts by WHO aimed at intervention and eventual eradication.
Kephera’s point-of-care test is intended for use in discriminating Neurocysticercosis from other causes of seizures in patients presenting with epileptic-like symptoms. While sophisticated laboratory tests have been available for T. solium infection, this will be the first point-of-care test. “Neurocysticercosis is one of the more neglected parasitic disease problems” said Dr. Andrew Levin, Chief Executive Officer of Kephera Diagnostics and Principal Investigator under the contract. “We believe that the availability of a point-of-care test that could help triage patients for appropriate diagnostic follow up and therapy will contribute to improving clinical care for millions of people who suffer from seizures worldwide”.
The grant awarded by NIAID is number 1R43AI149903.
About Kephera Diagnostics
Kephera Diagnostics is a startup that aims to address the public health challenges of global, emerging infectious diseases with new point of care assay technology. Our mission is to promote more effective and more affordable medical treatment through faster, point-of-care diagnosis. We collaborate with a global community of researchers to develop and translate new technologies into accessible products for clinical diagnostics and research applications. Kephera has recently been funded for development of new tests for several infectious diseases of major public health significance.