2013 ATSE Clunies Ross Award: Dr Anthony Radford, Dr James Rothel, Dr Paul Wood, Dr Stephen Jones
Tuberculosis Diagnosis Dr Tony Radford joined Paul Wood in the CSIRO TB team in 1986 as Molecular Biologist, collaborating on development of the cattle test with Jim Rothel and colleagues. Tony’s bias has always been on the commercial applications of science, and this interest led him to leave CSIRO in 1993 for the biotech industry. Tony’s combination of scientific, financial, IP, legal and commercial knowledge allowed him to participate as in inventor, developer and clinical researcher, as well as manage the myriad commercial operations required to develop a start-up to a successful international medical production and sales company. He led the commercialisation process, in collaboration with his fellow directors and executive team, building an effective global company capable of delivering a product that changed medical practices, and profitably making, registering and selling the QuantiFERON test. Dr Jim Rothel has been the driving force behind clinical adoption of QuantiFERON. In 1987, hejoined Dr Paul Wood and Dr Tony Radford and colleagues in a CSIRO group charged with developing a new diagnostic test for tuberculosis in cattle. Jim collaborated closely with Dr Stephen Jones from CSL to turn the whole blood bovine interferon gamma technology into a robust and accurate assay, suitable for routine use. In 1997, Jim joined Stephen at CSL to adapt and clinically trial the QuantiFERON test for tuberculosis in humans. In late 2000, Jim joined with Tony Radford to acquire the QuantiFERON technology and they founded Cellestis Ltd, which listed on the ASX in April 2001, of which Jim was a Director and CSO. They obtained US FDA approval for QuantiFERON in late 2001 and made the first sales. Jim and Tony then improved the test by incorporating proteins specific for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, absent from the widely used tuberculosis vaccine BCG. The second generation QuantiFERON test gave no false-positive results in vaccinated people – a major problem for the tuberculin skin test. Cellestis was successful in having this test, and a third generation with improved technology, also approved by the US FDA and by most other developed world countries. Dr Paul Wood has had an extensive career in veterinary science and management of global R&D, spanning basic and applied research to commercialisation and sale of products. He joined the CSIRO Division of Animal Health in 1985, leading the TB diagnostic program. In late 1985 he invented the platform interferon gamma cellular diagnostic technology and, with Jim Rothel, successfully collaborated with Stephen Jones at CSL to develop commercial kits for veterinary applications. This work was supported by the Australian cattle industry and trials of the Bovigam TB assay were conducted throughout Australia and multiple countries. Given that the existing Tuberculin skin test had been in use for more than 100years, it took many years to convince the conservative veterinary community to see the benefits of this new technology. With the success of the bovine assay for TB, CSL commenced the development of a human TB kit, the basis of the final human TB test, which was sold in 2000 to the Australian company Cellestis, founded by Tony Radford and Jim Rothel. Early in his career Dr Stephen Jones found his passion for the translation of basic science into clinical medicine. At the beginning of the AIDs epidemic, diagnostic tools were desperately needed and he began a project, at CSL, to develop a test to detect HIV infection. When a joint program commenced between CSIRO and CSL to develop a new test for bovine tuberculosis, Stephen contributed his experience and skills in diagnostic test development to the project. Stephen and his CSL group teamed up with Doctors Paul Wood, Jim Rothel and Tony Radford and colleagues at CSIRO Animal Health in Parkville, with the goal of producing a blood test to detect infected animals. The test they developed was novel, measuring a component of the immune response to infection, gamma interferon, and was used in the national program that led to the eradication of bovine TB in Australia. Stephen and his team established production procedures and facilities, provided all technical support and regulatory assistance for the three diagnostic kits for bovine tuberculosis that were ultimately commercialised by CSL (Bovigam™ for bovine species; Primagam™ for non-human primates; and Cervigam™ for deer). Stephen also adapted the technology to detect human gamma interferon and this led to the commercialisation of a first generation Quantiferon test for human TB in the mid-1990s. In 2000, the Quantiferon technology was acquired by Cellestis Ltd and in.2004, Stephen moved to Cellestis, to contribute to the market growth of Quantiferon products. In this role, he led operations, quality, regulatory affairs and technical support functions.