Life Technologies Corporation today announced a collaboration with the Southern African Treatment and Resistance Network (SATuRN — http://www.bioafrica.net/saturn) on sequencing-based diagnostics for HIV-infected individuals in Africa.
Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs are becoming increasingly available in the developing world, due to facilitation by both governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as reductions in price and international trade restrictions by pharmaceutical companies. Resistance to these drugs develops in many HIV-infected individuals, however, and resistance is therefore coming to the forefront of the global health agenda. Resistance can be monitored by genetic sequencing of two viral genes, but current costs have made routine use prohibitive in most African countries.
Life Technologies has developed together with SATuRN a simple-to-answer solution for ARV resistance testing, which is being made available to African partners at a highly economic cost per test. The test can be run on Life's Applied Biosystems line of Sanger sequencing instruments, which are broadly installed in African hospitals and HIV-testing centers.
The methods developed as part of this collaboration have the potential to become the most accurate and cost-effective method for the diagnosis of resistance pathogens in Africa and the referral of patients for appropriate care. The reasons for this are that the price of DNA/RNA genotyping is rapidly decreasing as technology is evolving at great speed, and the software applications to be used and further developed are all open source and available in Africa (Dr. Tulio de Oliveira on behalf of SATuRN - Public HIV Drug Resistances Databases in Africa, published in the journal NATURE 2010).
"Drug resistance testing is an essential cornerstone of clinical practice in the developed world," said Ronnie Andrews, president of medical sciences at Life Technologies. "We are proud to partner with SATuRN to make resistance testing possible for a broad base of HIV-infected patients in Africa."
"We have trained 1,315 physicians and medical personnel on the interpretation of HIV drug resistance in southern Africa. The region has more than 2 million patients on ARV treatment, and we believe that now is the time for the use genotyping technology to fight the battle against drug resistance," said Dr. Tulio de Oliveira, director of SATuRN and senior researcher at Wellcome Trust-Africa Centre. "This partnership with LIFE will allow more laboratories to use genotyping techniques, and large surveys on drug resistance to be produced to inform national department of health and policy makers in the region."
Additional collaborators on the test development include the Stanford HIV Drug Resistance Database.