Europe's First International Diagnostics Centre Launched
13 Nov 2012

In a European first, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine launched this week a global research collaboration hub - the International Diagnostics Centre (IDC). This revolutionary new setup aims to be a focal point, forum and centre for learning, addressing the diagnostics priorities and challenges that diagnostic researchers face today.

The IDC will work with collaborators in more than 100 countries in Africa, Asia and South America, and will undertake innovative research on the development and deployment of new diagnostic tests that will enable patients to be diagnosed faster, more accurately and cost effectively. Its advocates believe that the Centre is uniquely placed to facilitate and accelerate access to quality assured diagnostics in the developing world, improve patient care and inform disease control strategies.

Rosanna Peeling, Professor and Chair of Diagnostics Research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, spoke at the launch of the IDC on 8 November about the future of the Centre and its potential benefits. 'A new generation of diagnostic tests could save millions of people from deadly diseases like AIDS and TB in the next few years. I am delighted to launch the International Diagnostics Centre today to give a new impetus to our work and create a critical mass of expertise to address inequity of access to diagnostics, guide evidence based management of patients and strengthen health systems.'

Dr Peeling herself is no stranger to the importance of diagnostics and has held the role of acting Research Coordinator and head of Diagnostics Research at the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme on Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), based at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Centre's creation is also seen as a powerful show of support for the field of diagnostics which is seen by some as being under valued in global health, as funding has largely focused on the development and delivery of therapeutic interventions and vaccines. Supporters of diagnostics, however, are keen to point out that important recent advances - especially in point-of-care diagnostic tests for malaria, HIV, syphilis and other infectious diseases - can greatly improve the quality of clinical care for those without access to laboratory tests. It can also have a major role to play in improving surveillance for infectious diseases, especially those targeted for elimination.

It should be noted that the lack of quality standards in the evaluation and regulation of diagnostics has also caused a proliferation of low-quality diagnostic tests to be sold and used without evidence of effectiveness, discouraging companies with good quality tests to compete in the same market.

The launch of the IDC brings together what they believe is a critical mass of researchers committed to using multidisciplinary and integrated approaches to address these challenges. By leading cutting-edge research and development of accessible quality assured diagnostics, the Centre will advocate for diagnostics in global health. The Centre will also play a pivotal role in ensuring this is the 'Decade of Diagnostics' as it strives to help countries meet the Millennium Development Goals and ultimately save lives and strengthen health systems.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine already has a number of diagnostic successes under its belt including pioneering work to assess the cost effectiveness and utility of non-laboratory based rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for malaria as well as being involved in a recent study with collaborators in Malawi on self-testing for HIV, which established an important foundation for the introduction of self-testing in high HIV prevalent populations. It also took part in recent research into new RDTs for syphilis which resulted in 100 % of the study countries changing policy and recommending prenatal rapid test screening, saving thousands of lives.

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