- LONDON (Reuters) - A British
biotech firm said on Wednesday it had won the world's first patent for
a blood test for mad cow disease and hoped to launch the breakthrough
kit in around a year's time. Proteome Sciences Plc said its test, now
by an Australian patent, could be used to screen national blood banks for
vCJD as well as to diagnose disease in individuals and animals.
- At the moment, the only definitive way to detect mad
cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and its human
variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), is by analysis of brain samples
- A simple blood test would allow doctors to confirm the
disease earlier in patients showing symptoms and let vets monitor the
in animals before slaughter.
- Several biotech companies are chasing the goal of a blood
test, but Christopher Pearce, chief executive of the Surrey-based group,
believes Proteome Sciences is in the lead.
- ``This is the first time there have been any patents
issued in relation to the detection of variant CJD and BSE in blood,''
he told Reuters.
- ``Australia happens to be the first patent to come out.
Patents applications in Europe and the US are also well underway. ``We
are now actively talking to prospective partners who will bring commercial
tests to the marketplace...in 12-18 months.''
- The test works by detecting changes in prion proteins
that occur in humans and animals with the debilitating brain diseases.
Swiss-based Serono SA, which has developed a novel way of amplifying prions
to make them easier to detect, is also working on a diagnostic test and
hopes to find a licensing partner for its product in the first half of
- The human version of mad cow disease was first detected
in 1996 by scientists who believe it is caught from eating beef
with BSE. So far, there have more than 100 cases of vCJD worldwide, nearly
all of them in Britain.