In 2010, Professors Wendy Stevens and Lesley Scott of the Department of Molecular Medicine and Haemetology at the University of Witwatersrand created a companion diagnostic to ensure that new molecular TB Diagnostic machinery being implemented in the field is “fit for purpose” and externally quality assessed. After months of applying great science and thinking out of the box, the dry culture spot (DCS) for MTB/RIF was borne. Over the next 5 years, the product was developed, tested, rolled out through South Africa National Health Laboratory Services to 282 sites and then endorsed by the World Health Organisation for verification of the GeneXpert instrument for TB testing. Subsequently the uptake of the TB DCS program has been significant (391 sites in 24 countries) and the need arose to spin off a company from the research program in order to ensure the scalability of the service as well as the continued research and development required to expand the DCS program to other infectious diseases such as HIV, HPV and more to come.
The spin off company is SmartSpot Quality (Pty) Ltd. The design, manufacture and support of the TB DCS program continues to be run with the same team within the department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology at Wits, with the addition of Mr Dean Sher, SmartSpot’s managing director.
The team has won several awards for its ingenuity including the Innovation Prize for Africa’s Social Impact Award 2015, the GAP Biosciences Business Plan Award 2014 for biotechnology entrepreneurship and the NHLS National Innovation award in 2013.