New York Blood Center Enterprises (NYBCe) announced today it granted an exclusive commercial license to Big Eye Diagnostics for the rights to develop a diagnostic tool for onchocerciasisor river blindness. Under the terms of the agreement, Big Eye Diagnostics will use key biomarkers, identified by the team at NYBCe and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, to increase the specificity of a serological detection assay for infection with Onchocerca volvulus, the parasitic worm that causes river blindness.

River Blindness impacts 18 million individuals, with an additional 218 million at risk of contracting the disease. Predominantly concentrated in African tropical and sub-tropical regions, the ailment disproportionately affects those residing in poverty.

The World Health Organization (WHO) designates river blindness as a ‘neglected tropical disease’ and aims to eliminate transmission by 2030, eliminating the necessity for mass drug administration (MDA) in at least 12 countries with endemic populations. The strategic roadmap acknowledges the paramount importance of developing enhanced diagnostics with almost zero tolerance for false positives. These diagnostics would serve multiple purposes, including facilitating mapping in low-prevalence settings, determining the cessation of MDA, and conducting surveillance.

Presently, serological methods for diagnosis demonstrate limited sensitivity, detecting less than 80% of individuals exposed to or infected with O. volvulus and failing to ensure the required level of specificity. This agreement could yield a groundbreaking product, offering a crucial tool to enhance diagnosis with heightened sensitivity and ultra-high specificity. Furthermore, the resulting solution could streamline deployment in the affected geographies, addressing a significant need in the fight against river blindness.

Dr. Sara Lustigman, Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Parasitology at Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute’s (LFKRI) of NYBCe says, “I’m thrilled that the research of LFKRI and NIAID on O. volvulus and its interaction with the human host will be foundational to a sensitive infection diagnostic through our partnership with Big Eye Diagnostics. This commercial license agreement is a significant step toward improving river blindness control and achieving the WHO’s elimination goal.”

“We have already shown that our prototype serological assay can detect Onchocerca volvulus infection with very high sensitivity and specificity,” said Dr. Marco Biamonte, Big Eye Diagnostics’ Chief Executive Officer. “This innovative work from NYBC and NIH provides the necessary foundation to improve diagnosis in a global effort to eliminate river blindness.”

About New York Blood Center Enterprises
Founded in 1964, New York Blood Center Enterprises (NYBCe) provides blood and stem cell products and related medical and consultative services. NYBCe is at the forefront of advancing global public health and humanitarian causes by leading innovative research in hematology, blood banking, transfusion medicine, infectious diseases, and cellular therapies. Through its commitment to research, NYBCe has advanced numerous groundbreaking innovations in clinical care and biotechnology with patented disruptive technologies that are adopted globally.

About Big Eye Diagnostics

Big Eye Diagnostics was launched in 2022 and specializes in field-deployable diagnostics made to withstand tough conditions. Their goal is to bring rapid tests, for which prototypes exist and have been developed either by third parties or internally, through manufacturing and commercialization.