This novel approach to testing for liver disease in Hepatitis B patients with genotype C is truly the first of its kind.
Left untreated, long-term liver inflammation caused by the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) leads to cirrhosis and cancer—but if the inflammation is detected early enough, patients can be treated to prevent those serious complications from developing. The problem is, the current testing method—i.e. a liver biopsy—is not only invasive and expensive, it also carries some risk for patients.
To solve that problem, Dr William Abbott from the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit of the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) has invented a cost-effective, non-invasive diagnostic blood test that can detect active liver disease caused by HBV—specifically genotype C—one to eight years before serious complications occur. Not only will this enable patients to undergo preventative treatment before complications develop, it will also create significant cost-savings for health systems (the cost of a liver transplant to treat liver cancer is in the vicinity of $200,000).
To get the tests to market where they can have the most impact, Wellington UniVentures has brokered a licensing agreement with a major Chinese biotech company who will develop the testing kits in China and use its established distribution systems to sell them. Sales royalties will be paid to the ADHB, the inventors and the New Zealand Health Innovation Hub (NZHIH)—the organisation that contracted Wellington UniVentures to help DHB innovators develop their smart ideas into new products and services that make a real difference to the health sector.
The licensing deal is expected to have positive impact not only on the New Zealand economy, but also on the health of the millions of people in China—and the 7,000 people in this country—who live with genotype C HBV.
At a glance
Unlike invasive and potentially risky liver biopsy testing, this new method involves a simple blood test.
The cost of a simple blood test is extremely cost-effective when compared against traditional methods of testing, i.e. liver biopsies.
In more detail
Wellington UniVentures' established networks in China meant that Dr Abbott's team was able to work closely with one of the world’s foremost hepatologists—Professor Jin-Lin Hou from China’s Southern Medical University—to develop the diagnostic kit.
Once the development work in China is complete, the test will be made available for Australian, New Zealand, Pacific and Māori people with genotype C—a genotype that’s more commonly found in the Māori population than European.
Without China’s economies of scale, the expense of developing the kit in New Zealand would likely have prevented the project from being developed.
Wellington UniVentures' role in supporting NZHIH to commercialise research developed within District Health Boards is part of a goal to enable other organisations with a strong research focus to step directly into a fully functioning commercialisation process without the time and cost required to establish their own.
Get in touch with the Commercialisation Manager below to find out more.