Test kits first to detect designer anabolics

Stock photo: Getty
Stock photo: Getty
The world of drug-cheating in sports is set for major disruption with the formation of a company which will supply anabolic drug testing kits developed at the University of Otago.

InsituGen is built on a collaboration comprising deep-tech investor Pacific Channel and anabolic drug-detection technology created by Prof Alison Heather, of the University of Otago.

The company will equip established drug-screening operators with kits which detect designer anabolics that current technology is not able to identify.

"At the moment, existing tests only catch cheats who use recognised substances. However, cheats are able to go undetected if they use substances that have been chemically altered —the fingerprint of the drug isn’t recognised," Prof Heather said.

"Our test quickly identifies any form of anabolic steroid in an athlete’s system, even if it is an unknown compound. No other test can do this."

Her concept was advanced by Otago Innovation Ltd — a University of Otago company which develops and commercialises intellectual property developed out of the university.

"Working alongside Pacific Channel and Professor Heather, we’ve brought her cutting-edge scientific concept to the point where it is ‘commercialisation ready’, and now attracting anumber of other investors,’’ Otago Innovation chief executive officer David Christensen said.

"It is a very exciting time, and we look forward to the positive influence InsituGenwill have in the world of sport," he said.

Investors include Pacific Channel, financial services company Booster and New Zealand Growth Capital Partners. Together they have invested $1.6 million to begin commercialising the technology.

InsituGen’s immediate pathway lies in the horse-racing industry, with commercial testing in New Zealand and Australia.

The technology is then planned to be diversified to a human kit, with potential for InsituGen to be supplying major sporting codes as early as 2022.

"Not only does the technology provide athletes, coaches, trainers and administrators with confidence that what they’re taking is legal and won’t lead to a surprising and potentially career-ending positive result for an anabolic, it provides assurance that they’re not inadvertently taking something that is harmful and unsafe to their body," Prof Heather said.

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