Suffolk biotech firm secures £400k funding as it develops ‘accurate’ test for devastating cattle disease

New Anglia LEP CEO Chris Starkie, left, and PBD Biotech chief executive Dr Berwyn Clarke Picture: PB

New Anglia LEP CEO Chris Starkie, left, and PBD Biotech chief executive Dr Berwyn Clarke Picture: PBD BIOTECH/SI BARBER - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk biotech start-up has secured £400,000 as it launches a range of products to help combat the spread of TB in cattle.

Animal disease testing firm PBD Biotech, based at Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, has formulated a rapid test for live mycobacteria, which cause bovine TB, a condition which has devastated the livestock industry worldwide.

The money, from co-investment fund New Anglia Capital, regional investment groups and individual angel investors including farmers and vets, will go towards funding international trials of Actiphage, and launching products.

In the past year, in the UK alone, bovine TB has led to the slaughter of more than 30,000 cattle and cost the UK taxpayer more than £100m as, until now, there has been no accurate way to test for the disease.

Early private investor Tom Green, former goss of European Union agri-business Spearhead International Ltd, said the new Actiphage technolgoy had the potential to “transform the way we operate in agriculture”, as well as having a huge application in the food industry.

“Mycobacterial disease is a global challenge for the whole livestock industry, so the scale of the problem PBD Biotech is addressing is enormous,” he said.

The firm, set up just over 12 months ago, developed the rapid, highly sensitive test for bovine TB, Johne’s and other mycobacterial diseases in livestock, wildlife and exotics.

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It can identify the presence of live bacteria in blood, milk or other tissue in as little as six hours, the firm says, and can also distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals. It has UK Government’s approval for chronic herd breakdowns, and the company is currently conducting a number of field-based trials.

“The first challenge in disease management is diagnosis and there is a huge need for improved accuracy in the current testing regime,” said Mr Green, who was appointed chair of PBD Biotech’s board in September 2017. “This round of investment is enabling PBD Biotech to accelerate its go to market strategy, putting more resources into manufacturing and lab development, as well as extending training capacity and conducting further trials work.”

Trials are under way in Canada and France, with discussions in regions including the USA, Dubai and South America. New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) manages the co-investment fund.

New Anglia LEP chief executive Chris Starkie said: “Seed funding of this kind is vital for businesses to take innovative new ideas and turn them into something tangible – with job creation and economic growth the result. PBD Biotech is doing just that, and doing it within an industry sector that plays a key role in driving our economy forward.”