With affordable, effective diagnostic testing, Cavidi is helping physicians provide essential treatment to HIV patients in resource-strapped developing countries.
More than half of the world’s population lives in settings that lack basic resources such as clean
water, food and electricity. Human health suffers, especially in the area of infectious diseases. The good news is that infectious diseases such as HIV are treatable today. What hasn’t kept in step is access to the necessary diagnostic testing to ensure the drugs are working.
Enter Cavidi, a company in Uppsala, Sweden, founded in 1984 by leading virologists from Uppsala University. Its ExaVir™ product line is designed to provide a reliable, robust and inexpensive platform for monitoring HIV patients in resource-limited settings.
’’Our tests are suited to the clinical reality found in developing countries, in that they are affordable, reliable, easy to run in the field and deliver fast results’’, says John Reisky de Dubnic, CEO of Cavidi.
Stopping the train wreck
In order for doctors to make the most of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to treat HIV, they must be able to manage its use. The CD4 test measures the number of helper T cells per cubic millimeter of blood used to analyze the prognosis of patients infected with HIV. But while CD4+ monitors how the body reacts to HIV, it is less helpful for seeing how the virus is reacting to ART.
’’That is where viral load testing excels’’, says Reisky de Dubnic. ’’It allows doctors to observe HIV activity directly. And with ExaVir Load, doctors can monitor activity in all known HIV types and subtypes.
’’Think of a train speeding down the track. If HIV were a train in motion, heading for a crash, viral load would tell how fast the train was travelling, while the CD4+ count would tell how much track remains before impact. Both pieces of information are essential in assessing the clinical course of HIV infection. You need both to stop the train from wrecking’’, he says.
Proven on the ground
CD4+ is an inexpensive test, but viral load is more complex to measure. Machines with traditional technology are costly and out of reach for most patients in poor countries.
’’Our test uses a technology called Reverse Transcriptase. Its reliability has been proven on the ground in Kenya, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Benchmark studies have proven it to be as accurate as any HIV viral load test available today. And it is roughly half the cost to the clinic of the more traditional testing technology.’’
Physicians treating HIV face an uphill battle because of the rate at which the virus mutates, which makes viral resistance against any antiretroviral drug virtually inevitable. As it is sub-type independent, ExaVir™ can overcome this problem.
’’Our test is based on a technology that is disruptive because it competes primarily with non-consumption. It makes the test more accessible to the millions of patients who need it.’’
One challenge is shifting the mindset of physicians who may have invested in large, centralized laboratory testing.
’’Existing market structures don’t limit our thinking. We see extra demand is out there, largely untapped. Our strategy is based on the creation of innovative value to unlock new demand,’’ he adds.
’’Our aim is to make limited supplies of ARV medications go further and get more patients treated as effectively and economically as possible,’’ says Reisky de Dubnic. ’’This is not only good use of limited economic resources, it is the right thing to do for humanity.’’
The article was written by Amy Brown and published
in Nordic Life Science, Q3 2010