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Barr Ellison Solicitors – commercial property
7 August, 2018 - 14:42 By Tony Quested

Agri startup raises £400k to fight deadly bovine TB worldwide

A Suffolk AgriTech startup has secured £400k seed funding to meet global demand for its world first rapid test for mycobacteria in blood or milk – cause of the deadly bovine TB.

PBD Biotech in Thurston says its first major raise will fund international trials and underpin the launch of a suite of products.

International trials are underway in Canada and France, with discussions in multiple regions including the USA, Dubai and South America. As a result of this funding round, PBD Biotech has established a Canadian subsidiary for distribution and, in the longer term, manufacturing.

PBD raised the £400,000 from co-investment fund New Anglia Capital, regional investment groups and individual angel investors including farmers and vets.

Bovine TB is just one of a group of diseases caused by mycobacteria that has devastated the agricultural industry worldwide. 

In the past year in the UK alone, bovine TB has led to the slaughter of over 30,000 cattle and cost the UK taxpayer more than £100 million. Until now, there has been no accurate way to test for the disease. PBD’s Actiphage™ rapid and sensitive diagnostic technology addresses this challenge. 

Early private investor Tom Green, former CEO of EU agri-business Spearhead International Ltd, explains the Actiphage test’s potential: “Mycobacterial disease is a global challenge for the whole livestock industry, so the scale of the problem PBD Biotech is addressing is enormous, and the targets for the new technology are very clear,” he says.

“This new technology has the potential to transform the way we operate in agriculture and, additionally, has huge application in the food industry.”

Set up just over 12 months ago, PBD Biotech developed Actiphage to detect bovine TB, Johne’s and other mycobacterial diseases in livestock, wildlife and exotics.

It says Actiphage can accurately identify the presence of live bacteria in blood, milk or other tissue in as little as six hours and also distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals.

It has the UK Government’s approval for chronic herd breakdowns and the company is currently conducting a number of field-based trials.

Tom Green, who was appointed chair of PBD Biotech’s board last September, added: “The first challenge in disease management is diagnosis and there is a huge need for improved accuracy in the current testing regime.

“The ability to confidently eliminate false negatives – diseased animals which go undetected – is fundamental to both the maintenance of disease-free herd status, as well as to the proactive control, management and reduction of disease in infected herds.

“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.”

Controlled trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of Actiphage. Its use by a Devon vet as part of a private TB eradication strategy helped clear a dairy herd of bovine TB for the first time in six years.

In May 2018, the UK Government accepted the phage-based technology for exceptional private use on TB-stricken cattle herds in England.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: New Anglia LEP CEO Chris Starkie & PBD Biotech CEO Dr Berwyn Clarke

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