Irish firm HiberGene Diagnostics unveils new rapid test for meningitis

Company raising €5 million for product development and global commercialisation

Irish firm HiberGene Diagnostics has unveiled a new combination test for meningococcal and pneumococcal meningitis that can give accurate results in as little as 40 minutes.

The new test represents a technological breakthrough. Until now, HiberGene test kits could trace only a single pathogen. This is the first time the one test can look for either of two forms of a disease.

The test will cover 90 per cent of cases of bacterial meningitis and will help speed up treatment of the illness. Traditional microbiological methods can take up to 48 hours, and treatment of the disease is time-sensitive.

The launch of the test coincides with World Meningitis Day. It brings to five the number of conditions for which HiberGene provides rapid diagnosis.


"This is a very significant development and makes such tests very acceptable to end users who would otherwise face multiple tests," said HiberGene chief executive Brendan Farrell.

Influenza test

The company is now turning its attention to influenza and, using the new technology, expects to have a kit available by the fourth quarter of this year that can identify type A and type B influenza – those associated with annual epidemics – within an hour.

It is also working on a combined rapid test for the two most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases, chlamydia and gonorrhea.

The new tests come as the company, based in Sandyford in Dublin, is sharply expanding its operations and undertaking a €5 million fundraising effort.

HiberGene has signed deals with distributors in 60 countries worldwide and is just starting the widespread global commercialisation of its products.

Mr Farrell said it was also halfway through its latest round of fundraising. Among those putting money into the business are its Chinese distribution partner MedCaptain. Having already invested €250,000 in the Dublin business, MedCaptain has already committed to investing a further €500,000 in the current round.

The company has previously raised just under €9 million in two funding rounds since its establishment in 2009.

HiberGene says the additional funds will drive further product development as well as geographical expansion.

Mr Farrell expects the company will also add to its 25 current employees , admitting HiberGene was currently “stretched, to say the least” by the pace of its growth.

HiberGene was formed in 2009 on the back of technology developed in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times