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Rutgers researchers win award for tuberculosis test

<p>David Alland and Soumitesh Chakravorty at the 2019 Edison Patent Awards celebrating their work in biotechnology.</p>

David Alland and Soumitesh Chakravorty at the 2019 Edison Patent Awards celebrating their work in biotechnology.

On Nov. 14, two researchers from Rutgers University received the 2019 Edison Patent Award for biotechnology from the Research and Development Council of New Jersey for the development of a new Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) test, according to a press release. 

Rutgers inventor David Alland, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) and director of the Center for Emerging Pathogens and Rutgers Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, worked with Soumitesh Chakravorty, adjunct assistant professor at NJMS and director of research and development at Cepheid Inc., to develop the new test, according to the release.

Prior to their invention, it took approximately seven weeks to diagnose TB, according to the release. The new technology takes only 2 hours. The new test also works on drug-resistant strains of the disease. The technology has been adopted by Cepheid Inc. 

Alland is honored to receive the award, but there is still a lot of research to be done on diagnosing and treating tuberculosis, he said, according to the release.

“Tuberculosis tests were not sensitive enough to detect TB in patients who had a small amount of TB in their lungs and particularly in patients who are HIV positive,” Alland said. “We knew that this test was missing people who had tuberculosis and had to be improved on.”

Chakravorty was humbled to receive such a prestigious award and to have his work associated with Thomas Edison, the inventor for whom the award is named, according to the release.

10 million people developed TB last year and 1.5 million lost their lives to the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, according to the release. WHO has endorsed Alland and Chakravorty’s test, which is now used on a global scale as part of Cepheid Inc.  

“This test is faster, more sensitive, more accurate and more definitive. We are getting the same results that were taking over six weeks using conventional diagnostics, in 70 minutes,” Chakravorty said. “The patent really revolutionized the diagnostics of drug-resistant tuberculosis.”

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