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HomeBeefAI-empowered test provides breakthrough Johne’s disease detection  
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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AI-empowered test provides breakthrough Johne’s disease detection  

Diagnostics testing company, MI:RNA, has developed a new AI-empowered testing method for early disease detection of Johne’s disease.

This new technology is showing preliminary data of 73% sensitivity and 71% specificity in identifying Johne’s disease.

With further research, the company expects these numbers to “increase significantly”.

This method, according to a statement from the company, has the potential to detect early stages of infection and predict the outcome of the disease, significantly building on existing testing methods used in the agricultural sector.

Current testing practices for Johne’s disease, due to the nature of the infection, mean that identification of the disease is difficult, with current sensitivities of around 10-40% and little to no ability to diagnose early stages of infection, the statement added.

MI:RNA claims to be the first diagnostic testing company to use groundbreaking microRNA assay technology.

MicroRNAs are newly discovered biomarkers that manage the immune system and immune responses, and therefore, act as regulators for disease progression or resolution.

This makes them excellent biomarkers of disease and can significantly improve the identification of Johne’s and other complex conditions, and predict disease outcomes more accurately as the research develops, the statement outlined.

Johne’s Disease

MI:RNA’s new diagnostic testing innovation will allow veterinarians, farmers and pet owners to easily test for a variety of conditions.

Target areas include heart and kidney disease, osteoarthritis and bovine tuberculosis, along with effective general wellness and preoperative screening. The tests are carried out by means of blood and potentially in the future, milk or urine.

The diagnostics company has received £500,000 of second-round funding from Innovate UK to help further product and technology development and pave a final route to market around the world.

The global veterinary diagnostic market is valued at an estimated $35 billion annually, with the UK government spending an estimated £70 million every year on animal disease control, and a further estimated £50 million of industry costs attributed to disease.

According to Eve Hanks, founder and CEO of MI:RNA, biomarker science combined with the firm’s unique AI-powered modelling, means that “we can significantly improve animal health and reduce greenhouse gas output”.

“The breakthrough that we have had already achieved in Johne’s testing is unparalleled, and has provided an opportunity for MI:RNA to pitch our business concept in the USA to The Kansas City Animal Health Summit.”

“Following our presentation, we have now progressed through to the final selection stage for European Innovation Council funding for our work on Johne’s disease,” Hanks concluded.

“In terms of future applications, microRNAs can assist with vital drug discovery, progressing future diagnostic testing and understanding disease pathways more effectively.”

“We have already made remarkable progress and we know that with the continued backing of our tech, AI and health experts and with the correct funding, we can do so much more,” Hanks concluded.

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