William Miller’s 2020 has been insane, but for good reasons. Like others around the world, Miller’s year has been greatly affected by COVID-19. However, it is not because he contracted the virus. Miller’s company, ICT International, is on the frontline in the battle against the deadly disease. ICT International develops tests to diagnose deadly viruses and in 2020, after the spread of the deadly pandemic, created a test for COVID-19.
ICT International diagnostic testing company that has a patent pending on the first-ever COVID-19 antibody test. The development of the test was a major breakthrough, allowing individuals and communities to get tested for the disease. Getting tested is one of the chief ways of curbing the spread of COVID-19 and ICT International’s cutting-edge work is saving lives around the globe.
The company’s work in 2020 didn’t stop with its COVID-19 test. They have worked diligently to battle the deadly disease with other developments. It truly has been a remarkable year in the scientific community and Miller has been a chief figure in the strides that have been taken.
William, ICT International supplies international aid organizations with life-saving diagnostic tests. Can you tell us exactly what these diagnostic tests are and just how important they are to aid groups?
Our 13 tests are vital to the WHO and the UN to just name the top two. ICT International’s tests are deployed to the front lines of an outbreak for Malaria, HIV or Schistosomiasis as a screening tool. We are the ones that these aid organizations rely on for rapid testing to accurately diagnose a disease. In Africa it is hard just to get into a community and test everybody let alone wait the traditional time for lab results to come back then track down that individual and prescribe drugs. We can do all that in a matter of minutes stopping the spread of a disease in its tracks. Think about that model in the fight against HIV, if we test that individual here and now they do not have time to spread the disease further because they did not know they were infected, our work is life changing. I feel proud to be leading this organization into the next generation of testing as this will make a better world for our children to live in.
What are some of the products ICT International works with and exports?
ICT International exports COVID-19 antigen and COVID-19 antibody, Zika and Schistosomiasis tests to list a few products. Our main focus is tropical diseases but we are adapting to the diseases that affect the entire world such as COVID-19 and flu. Currently ICT is researching ways to implement our technology into other diseases in order to drive down cost and wait times for life saving results.
The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world in 2020. How has it affected the company’s business and its reach around the globe?
The first part of the outbreak that hit the world in early March was devastating. Our supply lines were cut and we had cargo stranded across the globe. We did not have access to raw materials and precious supplies of antibodies. At one point, we were sending out private jets to round up components to keep production going. It really was an eye opener just how vulnerable we all really are and how we rely too much on foreign supplies for industry. To counter that we have begun to grow our own antibody supply in South Africa by producing it with a technique that grows inside of tobacco leaves and we then harvest and process those. This is just one creative solution that we are pursuing to close the loop on autonomy in the supply market. We as an industry just became complacent and left too much to chance because it was easy and cheap. There is still much work to be done for unseen circumstances in anyone’s supply chain.
In October, it was announced that ICT offers “a rapid point-of-care test for SARS COV-2.” Can you tell us about the test and how it has changed the fight against COVID-19?
Our COVID-19 antigen test is a game changer. What we were able to do is isolate the COVID-19 virus and use our technique for placing it on a rapid test cassette where you do not need certified laboratory technicians or expensive and timely equipment to process samples. This is the principle of ICT International, a rapid test that can be deployed to the front lines of a disease as we have been doing this concept for 30 years in Africa. The process for our new test COVID-19 antigen is simple, first you take a sample from either the nasopharyngeal area or throat by using a swab then it is placed into our tube where you add just a few drops of buffer solution and mix it for one minute, next you place a dropper top on it and place four drops onto our test cassette and wait 15 minutes to read the results. I mean it is just genius that you can produce a lab-quality result in just a matter of minutes while the person waits. This means we can do the test at airports, hotels, professional sporting events or concerts anywhere where you want to travel or congregate. As our test has been rolling out you can see a direct impact to the community on isolating those that are sick and quarantining them to stop the spread of the virus. Speed is everything with a virus. If you can get ahead of it by testing and quarantining, you curb the tide and will win the fight.
Miller connected with ICT International by fate. After falling ill and having doctors in the United States struggle to diagnose him, Miller was found to have Schistosomiasis Haematobium. Miller’s diagnosis led him to ICT International’s website and it was all downhill from there.
William, how did you join ICT International and what brought you to the company?
Stories, do you like stories? I like them as they have depth. On the 3rd of March 2018, I bought the rights to the U.S. market for ICT International. I did this because while working as a contractor for the U.S. State Department in the Middle East, I became sick with Schistosomiasis Haematobium and was sick since 2011 living with this disease because it was not properly diagnosed, especially in the United States.
My doctor, who was from the U.K. was able to identify a Schistosomiasis egg and prescribe me the medicine to cure it. Upon returning to the Embassy, I spoke with our safety officer and told them I had become infected with Schistosomiasis while here. The expression on their face was priceless and he handed me this week’s safety brief. I put together an expansive powerpoint on Schistosomiasis and briefed our team of over 600 people in two different safety briefs on Schistosomiasis to include symptoms and what it did to me. After both briefs, loads of my teammates came up and told me they have been suffering the same symptoms. So, I directed them to the embassy clinic where things didn’t go as planned.
The embassy health clinic was not prepared for this and was only giving a standard urine seven panel dipstick test looking for bacteria, etc. The clinic ensured us that the parasite was not here and the regular speech of putting someone off. Knowing what I did about this disease as a medic, I began to search for the gold standard of testing and that was the Kato-Katz technique for Schistosomiasis Mansoni and filtering the urine for Schistosomiasis haematobium and then placing the samples under the microscope. The embassy’s health clinic was not capable of running those tests and dismissed it. Well, frankly this made me mad as people were suffering and nobody wanted to lift a finger. So, I set out and began to research testing methods for this disease and ran across ICT International in South Africa.
Their website was dated and I was afraid to send anyone money in Africa. But after an email followed by a very polite phone call, I ordered a box of Schisto POC-CCA rapid antigen test for Schistosomiasis and had them delivered to the US embassy. They arrived and I was delighted. I organized a testing session where we tested a variety of our team in different departments to get a snapshot of what was really going on and 30% tested positive for Schistosomiasis. I was taken back, and now that I had confidence that these guys in Cape Town were the real deal, I ordered more and we discovered that the numbers kept rising and settled at a total of 34% of our team in fact had Schistosomiasis. I immediately knew that this slick test that could identify a parasite by an antigen with amazing accuracy from a simple urine sample was the incentive for me to investigate further into ICT International.
I then spoke to the company in South Africa and asked what their plans for the U.S. market and they replied, they have no clue on how to get the test certified with the FDA. This is where I came in and bought the rights to the U.S. market and formed S7LLC the holding company that now owns ICT International. With that done I next assembled a legal team to help guide me through the FDA process to bring this amazing test to the United States and in December 2019 we succeeded and got Schisto POC-CCA FDA registered and on the market. We were growing the market share and then on 15 March 2020, I got a call from the factory in South Africa “we have done it, isolated the COVID-19 by DNA acid sequencing the virus”. I immediately wanted in and we designed and patented the first generation IgG/IgM antibody test for COVID-19 on 25 March 2020 US Patent Office docket #009199.00004 and the rest is history.
What was your background in diagnostic tests and international aid organizations prior to working with ICT?
My medical background is as a medic and I have lived much of my life outside the US working for different US organizations. It has been an eye opening experience that has shaped me into what I am today. Living in Africa, South America, the Middle East and Europe helped me learn the shortcomings of traditional laboratory needs in a field or aid platform. The rapid cassette testing model is just brilliant, think about it you get all the sensitivity and specificity of the traditional lab but in the palm of your hand. It just made sense to me that this is the way to go in medical diagnostic testing, it’s the future.
Although Miller’s time with ICT International is more recent, the company has been around for three decades and has developed tests for some of the most deadly diseases in the world today. Their work is saving lives and with new diseases like COVID-19 popping up when least expected, ICT International continues to work hard to diagnose individuals for deadly viruses before it is too late.
ICT’s tests are used in 56 countries. What are some of the major diseases the tests are used to detect?
We have designed and manufactured 13 different rapid test for diagnosing: Zika, Typhoid, Tuberculosis, Schistosomiasis, Pregnancy, Dual Malaria, Malaria PF, Leptospira, Filariasis, Dengue, Chikungunya, COVID-19 antibody, and our newest test, COVID-19 antigen. You have to know this is our specialty and ICT International has been doing this for over 30 years. We isolate the antigen or antibody of a disease and develop a rapid test that is easy to deploy to the field for screening people to help curb the disease we are fighting at the time. “This is what we do.”
As part of the fight against COVID-19, do you foresee the disease’s spread slowing in early 2021?
Unfortunately, no I don’t. We just don’t have a handle on it yet. The way it spreads and how quickly it can infect a community or event is just staggering. With winter in full effect, we know viruses prefer mild, cold dry conditions, which only make it worse for the spread of COVID-19. For me and my mindset, testing is key, along with providing an environment where COVID-19 cannot live. The vaccine is a wonderful solution but it will take time to administer. But the short term solution is isolating the sick by properly and rapidly diagnosing them and then isolation.
The next biggest challenge is keeping the environment of our daily touch items safe. We must sanitize and use means to prevent the virus from living on surfaces. That is why I am working with Resysten, a Hungarian company that has invented a spray that lasts 12 months on any surface and kills COVID-19 and all other viruses and bacteria including, MRSA and Norovirus. We have joined forces to create a COVID-19 bubble where ICT International can screen people letting only the cleared in at an event, casino, plane, bus or office which has been treated with Resysten, so we now know it cannot spread and this is the way. Our partnership is the model in which Europe is opening its flights, borders and businesses to climb out of this wretched disease.
In October, you stated “There are three great strides we have to take against coronavirus: Accurate testing (achieved with PCR), faster results with reduced costs whilst maintaining required accuracy levels (which ICT International’s test provides) and a vaccine.” How close are these three areas to being a reality?
We have closed the loop on the first two points of testing. PCR is wonderful but it is slow and costly that is why we devised our COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test that is equal to PCR accuracy but is much faster and is not limited by using a single machine to process samples. With that said, we have now seen the vaccine arrive on the scene with limited success and a difficulty to roll it out. I did read that some companies’ vaccines need to be stored at -112 Fahrenheit and that is a difficult task to achieve on a global market. So, there are limitations that still need to be overcome with the vaccine and the final portion of the loop is still not closed.
As 2020 has most likely been a very busy year for ICT, what do you foresee 2021 being like?
Insane, I own ICT International, a successful diagnostic testing company that has a patent on the first COVID-19 antibody test. Next, we developed the rapid antigen test for COVID-19 and got it CE certified and are in the process of FDA approval. Then we have developed a software program to go with our rapid test to give reporting data as the tests are read allowing aid organizations and governments access to data of the disease we are battling; this is truly a game changer of a concept.
Rapid testing coupled with real-time live data of a disease in the field or city is ground breaking. This software is not only used in the fight against COVID-19 but we have adapted it to be used with the 12 other tests we offer. Imagine a Chikungunya or Schistosomiasis outbreak in Africa, we can track that data live with geotagging that governments can download anytime they want, it’s amazing. Then there is Villya Pharmaceuticals, my drug company. Villya was just granted a patent on 8 Dec 2020 for two new drugs, one to cure Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) and one to cure Uterine Fibroids related to it. In addition to that I have reformulated Praziquantel (patent pending) into a liquid drug that can be administered now to children who are not able to swallow the traditional large pills. Also, this new form of Praziquantel is also more effective than the original formulation plus I have made it less toxic to humans by clearing the dead parasites, for which it is prescribed, from the body faster.
My latest venture is in the beauty sector where I own Sel’s Wax® a 100% natural Brazilian sugar wax company that’s a product used to remove unwanted body hair. We are already on Amazon and in Seabra Foods a Brazilian grocery chain and growing. I formulated this after looking at the label on a product my wife was using and just was appalled at the list of chemicals on the label and she just could not remove that chemical wax from her spatula. So I formulated a product that performed better and cleans off with just water and has no chemicals in it, so it’s a win, win. I have been blessed with a mind that keeps solving problems. I look at something and can envision a better solution, one that is safe, healthy and more economical than traditional answers, I am truly blessed. So I can say 2021 will be a very busy and productive year for me.
William, what is a day in your life like?
My day is very structured and planned. I wake very early in the morning in order to be able to speak to the laboratory in South Africa then our UK office. Once I have dealt with any issues and market strategy for sales for the day, I then concentrate my attention to the US side of the business. Next there comes time for Villya with new drug developments and that is a combination of dealing with the lawyers and my lab time for research.
In that mix, I have the pleasure of having a family with kids in school and the day-to-day life to balance. This is where scheduling and planning are vital to keeping me to my tasks. The afternoon of my day is surprisingly where I am the busiest as the mornings usually bounce back around 4:30 to 5:00 pm. This time of the day I concentrate on my replies to lawyers, customers and employees for that day’s dealings. When that is done, I always take a break and have a formal dinner with my family and focus my time on their needs for a few hours. Then it’s back to work closing any details up for the business day around 9:00 to 10:00 pm. It has just been crazy this year as I ride the wave of this outbreak.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I am a Shriner and I support the Shriners Hospitals for Children that provides specialized care to children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. This is an amazing way to give back to the world by helping any child anywhere for free!
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” — John D. Rockefeller
“The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.” — Andrew Carnegie
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
That’s an expansive question isn’t it? I would change the polarity of a society. What makes the world so great is the diverse cultures, thoughts and life styles adapted in regional living. I have been lucky to see most of the world and experience collectively what it’s like and in the end we are all “the same, but different” as they say in Thailand. As people we really need to understand we are all in this together and polarity has no place in a productive society.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would like to add to the work I have done on Schistosomiasis, as it turns out not so rare a disease. I have discovered that interstitial cystitis (IC) is actually Schistosomiasis Haematobium and is being passed between people as an STD in first world countries. For all my research and to document my findings I have created https://www.schistosomiasis.org.
I did a small study in the UK to confirm that ladies diagnosed with IC by their GP were tested using ICT Internationals Schisto POC-CCA rapid antigen test and they were positive for Schistosomiasis. After diagnosis some were treated with oral praziquantel and their symptoms improved. It was not until I discovered and treated women elsewhere with our new Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) drug Villasel from Villya (https://www.villya.net ) did it totally eliminate the disease. This is ground breaking work on a tropical disease that is now spreading in first world countries.
ICT International is doing amazing work in the world of disease testing. Their work on COVID-19 alone is helping individuals and communities to diagnose the disease and isolated individuals until they recover from it.
Miller’s introduction to ICT International was by fate. He contracted Schistosomiasis Haematobium which led him to search for help online. Miller found ICT International and since discovering the company, has joined forces to develop the brand further.
ICT International is doing great things on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19. They are a major player in the battle, but are one that works behind the scene. Even though most people do not know they are there, ICT International’s tests for diseases are vital.
Images credit: Ray Baldino, M.Photog., CPP, FDPE, FED
Journalist and author. Contributor