Cure Kids Ventures is a seed and early stage investment fund that invests in the commercialisation of healthcare innovation in products and services with a potential to benefit child health.
Cure Kids Ventures is pleased to have invested in Pictor Limited, an Auckland-based company, that has developed an immunodiagnostic platform with global potential – especially those regions with the highest infectious disease burden. This technology fulfils the increasing need for simple and cost-effective diagnostic tests that can be used to combat some of the world’s most prevalent infectious diseases.
Pictor’s flagship is its low-cost ToRCH kit, which is giving hope to pregnant mothers in India with its innovation.
Pictor’s PictArray ToRCH is a simple low-cost diagnostic test for five diseases which can infect pregnant women and lead to the death of the foetus or infant; Toxoplasmosis, Rubella, Cytomegalovirus and Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) 1 and 2. (ToRCH is an acronym for the five infectious diseases). The PictArray ToRCH testing kit developed by Pictor aims to help doctors prevent thousands of these deaths and assist in reducing India’s infant mortality rate.
ToRCH infections are responsible for causing over 20 percent of deaths in new born infants in India and across South East Asia. These diseases also cause hearing impairment, eye problems, mental retardation and autism.
Traditional tests examining these pathogens have often been too expensive for many poorer families, leaving doctors to make their diagnosis based on symptoms alone. Used on expectant mothers, Pictor’s test utilizes cutting-edge immunodiagnostic technology that allows up to eight tests to be accurately performed together on a specially designed slide.
Results are read on the company’s low-cost portable reader powered through a computer USB port, and analysed using Pictorial; Pictor’s exclusive data analysis software, which provides results within two minutes of test completion.
The test’s easy integration into laboratories of all sizes, including the small manual operations still dominant in India and South East Asia, in addition to its low entry cost, fast results and minimum technical training requirements, make the technology ideal for developing countries. Pictor’s ToRCH test is an exciting development offering real benefits for Indian families, where these diseases have caused loss and distress through long-term health damage.
The technology is yet another example of the innovative developments in the health sector coming from New Zealand where the quality of Auckland-based scientific research and development is not a question.
Pictor is now working hard on a new challenge: developing a tropical fever panel that can be used to prevent deaths amongst children by more early diagnosis of Dengue or Chikungunya. (In January this year a 12-year-old New Zealand girl on holiday in Tonga died due to a failure to diagnose that she had Dengue when she presented at hospital).
Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne arbovirus of the genus Flavivirus, has become one of the most common and rapidly spreading vector-borne diseases after malaria and is a major international public health concern. According to W.H.O. latest report, Dengue is responsible for an estimated 50 million to 100 million illnesses annually, including 250,000 to 500,000 cases of dengue haemorrhagic fever—a severe manifestation of dengue—and approximately 29,000 deaths. Around 95 percent of cases occur in children younger than age 15 years; infants constitute 5 percent of all cases. Dengue has mainly been documented in Asia; data from Sub-Saharan Africa are lacking, although reports from Gabon and elsewhere are creating concern that it is an emerging disease or has been previously not recognized because of a lack of diagnostic testing.
Dengue is one of the fastest spreading diseases in the world. Over 2.5 billion people – more than 40% of the world’s population – are at risk from the disease. It is a leading cause of serious illness and sometimes death among children and increasingly adults in many Asian and Latin American countries. There is no cure or specific treatment, so prevention is critical. Dengue affects urban populations, often causing massive hospital overflows during the rainy seasons, when the numbers of mosquitoes and virus transmission is high – increasing from 50 cases a week up to 3000 cases on a peak day.
Currently, no specific therapeutic agents exist for dengue fever, apart from analgesics and medications to reduce fever. Treatment is supportive; steroids, antivirals, or carbazochrome, which decreases capillary permeability, have no proven role. Mild or classic dengue is treated with antipyretic agents such as acetaminophen, bed rest, and fluid replacement; most cases can be managed on an outpatient basis. The management of dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome is purely supportive. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided, owing to the increased risk for Reye’s syndrome and haemorrhage.
Chikungunya, an alpha virus transmitted by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, is responsible for a clinical syndrome characterized by fever, rash, headache, myalgias, and arthralgias. It can affect all ages, including young children; transplacental transmission with congenital infection has been described. Although past outbreaks of chikungunya have primarily occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa and regions of South Asia and East Asia and Pacific, this vector-borne viral infection has emerged in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it spread rapidly from island to island. No specific antiviral therapy is available, and treatment is largely supportive.