Company garners world’s first patent for BSE blood test

WASHINGTON (DTN)–A British biotech firm has the world’s first patent for a test to detect bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in blood, and hopes to launch the breakthrough diagnostic kit in around a year’s time, reported Reuters.

Proteome Sciences Plc said its test, now covered by an Australian patent, could be used to screen national blood banks for vCJD, as well as to diagnose disease in individuals and animals.

At the moment, the only definitive way to detect BSE, and its human version, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), is by analysis of brain samples after death.

A simple blood test would allow doctors to confirm the disease earlier in patients showing symptoms and let veterinarians monitor the condition in animals before slaughter.

Several biotech companies are chasing the goal of a blood test, but Christopher Pearce, chief executive of the Surrey-based group, believes Proteome Sciences is in the lead. “This is the first time there have been any patents issued, in relation to the detection of variant CJD and BSE in blood,” he told Reuters.

“Australia happens to be the first patent to come out. Patents applications in Europe and the U.S. also are well underway. “We are now actively talking to prospective partners who will bring commercial tests to the marketplace–in 12 to 18 months.”

Shares in Proteome Sciences, which hit a low of 26 pence in October, rose 1.6% to 48 1/4p on the patent news.

The test works by detecting changes in prion proteins that occur in human and animal victims of the debilitating brain diseases.

Swiss-based Serono SA, which has developed a novel way of amplifying prions to make them easier to detect, also is working on a diagnostic test and hopes to find a licensing partner for its product, in the first half of this year.

The human version of BSE was first detected in 1996 by scientists who believe it is caught from eating beef contaminated with BSE. So far, there have more than 100 cases of vCJD worldwide, nearly all of them in Britain.