Amid global concern over the spread of the Ebola virus, British Prime Minister David Cameron sparked some optimism after pledging a further 1.34 million pounds in research funding at the G20 summit in Australia this weekend.
Among the five projects to receive financial backing from the UK government and Wellcome Trust is the EbolaCheck research project, which aims to test bodily fluids such as saliva to detect the virus in a single process. It is the brainchild of Dr Stergios Moschos, a professor of industrial biotechnology and biochemistry at the University of Westminster.
The effort began in July, by which time WHO statistics had recorded 779 cases and 481 deaths overall from the virus. A team led by Dr Moschos (which also includes the deputy director of Public Health England, Professor Miles Carroll, the chief of USAMRIID’s diagnostics systems division, Dr David Norwood, and several laboratory microbiologists from West Africa) submitted the request for funding.
“I have been working with a biotech firm creating diagnostic machines and for the past couple of years we were studying pulmonary and oral microbes using a new device that I designed,” Moschos said. After a series of extensive discussions with Ebola expert Dr Edward Wright, the Greek scientist decided to join the anti-Ebola fight.
“Until now, laboratory results would take days to be released and as a result the patient, who may live far from the hospital, would have already transmitted the virus,” Moschos said.
The new process would provide results within 40 minutes, which is over eight times faster than some existing laboratory techniques, and increase the chances of survival.
“The machine is like an evolution of sepsis detection devices at British hospitals,” Moschos said. “It will be very simple to operate and suitable for areas without electricity,” he said.
The project will be funded with 620,000 pounds (750,000 euros) and the first device should be ready to run in January. “In May we should deliver three devices to Sierra Leone and New Guinea. We should have made 10 devices by the end of 2015,” he said.