Accurate annotations

Bicoastal startup launches NGS product for pathogen detection

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MENLO PARK, Calif. & CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—“As the CDC reports, every year, over 2 million people are infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, causing more than 23,000 deaths in the U.S.,” said Arc Bio CEO Dr. Todd Dickinson, who is also a founding scientist of Illumina. “Rapid identification of various strains of antimicrobial resistance, and better understanding their transmission and evolution, is vital to protecting public health.”
Arc Bio, which was established by leading geneticists and bioinformaticians on both coasts, launched antimicrobial resistance software that is the first in a series of next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based products intended to create a new paradigm in pathogen detection. Galileo AMR, an antimicrobial resistance (AMR) detection software system, is designed to offer fast, accurate annotations for any gram-negative bacterial DNA sequence in less than five minutes.
The system has an extensive archive of expert-validated gram-negative AMR genes, cassettes and other mobile elements. The cloud-based proprietary software uses advanced analytics in a user-friendly interface to rapidly and efficiently detect AMR in gram-negative bacteria, accurately annotate AMR genes and mobile elements in DNA sequences of any length and precisely annotate plasmid AMR insert sequences.
“At Arc Bio, we are on a mission to improve the human condition by delivering new tools that profoundly change how disease is diagnosed, treated and managed,” said Dickinson. “The launch of Galileo AMR is our first step towards achieving this goal.”
He added, “When I came on board, after becoming familiarized with the teams, their strengths and the various technologies and capabilities we were amassing, it became very clear that the two groups had highly complementary tool chests: one was focused more on the molecular biology, and the other on informatics. We also knew that there were some glaring unmet needs in the areas of infectious disease and microbiome, and we felt confident that we could tackle these challenges together. So we brought the teams together to form Arc Bio, and aimed our sights squarely on the mission of developing and introducing innovative solutions for taking the guesswork out of infectious disease diagnosis.”
Dickinson believes that NGS offers “extraordinary potential for taking the guesswork out of infectious disease diagnosis and management.” Unlike today’s standard of care (culturing, individual qPCR tests or limited, targeted panels), it “intrinsically takes a hypothesis-free approach to the problem, which should enable the most comprehensive, unbiased, accurate assessment of a patient’s condition, and in turn, how to best treat it.” NGS approaches also have the potential to provide detailed information around the anti-microbial resistance of an infection, according to Dickinson.
“It’s not necessarily a simple thing to deploy NGS for these objectives, however,” he said. “There are several challenges to deploying this technology at a clinical setting. Arc Bio is working to overcome these challenges and will make all of this easy for hospitals and labs to adopt in a simple to use, integrated solution. In the near term, we have made our proprietary AMR technology (Galileo AMR) available immediately, given the urgent need to provide our scientific and healthcare communities with more powerful tools to get out in front of the significant threat that anti-microbial resistance poses globally.”
Arc Bio was formed two years ago, and the company kept both sites—Menlo Park and Cambridge—because company officials find it helpful to be able to recruit from both coasts in the two largest biotech hubs in the country. The groups are highly integrated across the coasts and work closely together.
“There will be many other products under the Galileo brand,” Dickson remarked. “Galileo AMR, the first product we have launched, is our cloud-based antimicrobial-resistance software and database tool for providing the most accurate and detailed annotation of gram-negative bacteria, which are the most adept at surviving antibiotics as a result of their outer membrane and other evolved mechanisms which render many existing medicines virtually useless.”
According to Carlos Bustamante, one of the company’s scientific co-founders, “Our goal at Arc Bio is to revolutionize pathogen detection by developing a unique NGS lab workflow and software solution that allows for smarter and simple to use analysis. Our current emphasis is on assisting those in public health and life-science research who study antimicrobial-resistance transmission and evolution of gram-negative bacteria.”
“We know that there are more efficient ways to detect and annotate resistance in order to better protect and improve public health. As Arc Bio evolves, we aim to play an increasingly significant role in combatting the global challenges of infectious disease and antibiotic resistance,” said David Andrew Sinclair, scientific co-founder of Arc Bio.

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