EU TARGETS INVESTMENT IN RAPID AND NON-INVASIVE DIAGNOSIS OF DISEASES
Often, people do not even suspect that they have this insidious disease. In the case of hepatitis B, the proportion of people who do not feel sick is around 50–60%, and in the case of hepatitis C, even up to 80%. This is why early diagnosis of these diseases is crucial as untreated hepatitis becomes chronic or may even progress to liver cancer. Early, non-invasive or rapid diagnosis is also important in the treatment of other dangerous diseases: AIDS/HIV, the aforementioned tuberculosis, various forms of cancer, Covid-19 (which is currently sweeping the world), as well as the increasing incidence of allergies. Early diagnosis increases the chances of being cured, for example, of many cancers, by as much as 100%.
It is not for nothing that the world is spending more and more money on in vitro diagnostics (a medical test that is conducted or monitored outside the body but in an artificial system such as a test tube). According to The Insight Partners, as of January 2020, the sector’s revenues were USD 72.4 billion in 2020 and will grow to USD 107.7 billion in 2027. The growth rate has also been driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘The European Union has long been providing very significant funding to the health and biomedical sector under the measures ‘Intelligence. Joint Science-Business Projects’, and ‘Experiment’. There is no doubt that the importance of health technologies will grow even more in the future. Lithuania’s Life Sciences Industry Development Guidelines aim to make Lithuania the most attractive country in Europe for life sciences development by 2030. The share of added value generated by the life sciences industry is expected to reach 5% of the country’s GDP by 2030,’ says LBSA Director Aurimas Želvys.
ThermoPharma Baltic, a company working in the field of cancer diagnostics, is implementing the project ‘Development of cancer diagnostic systems’ under the measure ‘Intelligence. Joint Science-Business Projects’. To improve early diagnosis of cancer, the company plans to carry out research on molecular tests for prostate cancer and kidney cancer to determine the risk of disease progression, and the prognosis of response to treatment. The funding for the project amounts to EUR 947,000.
The company Diagnolita has already completed the implementation of the project ‘New prostate cancer diagnostic tools’, for which more than EUR 256,000 has been granted. A new diagnostic test was developed during this project implemented under the measure ‘Intelligence. Joint Science-Business Projects’. The company’s professionals are currently working on another project to identify various forms and stages of cancer. The aim of this project is to develop a non-invasive prostate cancer diagnostic test based on the method of multiple gene expression analysis, which would not only diagnose the cancer but also predict its development, determine its type and select the appropriate treatment without unnecessary invasion of the body. The project has already received EUR 198,000 EU investment.
‘The Covid-19 pandemic, which is hitting the world for the second year in a row, has also presented new challenges,’ says the LBSA Director, adding that ‘in addition to the already planned measures for the evaluation of business project proposals, we have urgently organised two more Covid-related measures in 2020 to meet unexpected medical and human health needs. A total of 42 projects are currently being implemented under the Covid-19 R&D instrument, for which EUR 23.7 million have been allocated and 56 projects have received a favourable evaluation under the measure ‘Covid-19 produktai LT’ (Covid-19 Products LT). They have been granted EUR 25.9 million.’
The project is currently being implemented by the company Imunodiagnostika under the measure ‘Covid-19 produktai’ (Covid-19 products). The company has already developed two prototype serological diagnostic tests in different formats for the detection of Covid-19-specific IgG and IgM antibodies: an ELISA test (a biochemical method commonly used in immunology to detect the presence of antibodies or antigen in a sample) and a test based on the microarray format (a microarray is a method for studying the expression of thousands of genes at a time). These types of diagnostic kits are designed for the direct detection of virus-specific antibodies in the patient’s blood, based on the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay technique. Imunodiagnostika will use the EU investment, of which more than EUR 559,000 has already been disbursed to the company, to quickly establish a suitable infrastructure for the production of diagnostic tests for the detection of Covid-19-specific IgG and IgM antibodies.
The same company is also implementing a project under the ‘Experiment’ instrument to develop a personalised allergy diagnostic tool, based on the principle of artificial intelligence. The diagnostic tool developed will make it possible to diagnose allergies based on the results of blood tests more quickly, more easily and without missing important information, while trying to eliminate the human factor as much as possible. Another project of Imunodiagnostika is dedicated to the diagnosis of allergies under the measure ‘Intelligence. Joint Science-Business Projects’ to develop prototypes of two diagnostic kits based on innovative microarray technology to detect allergen sensitivity; these have already been completed. The project costs amounted to EUR 1.3 million.