Stepping up against sepsis

Companies ink agreement to develop rapid, point-of-care solution for diagnosing bloodstream infections

Jan 12, 2020
Kelsey Kaustinen
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. & NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, U.K.—According to the World Health Organization, more than 30 million people worldwide develop sepsis each year, about six million of whom eventually die from the infection. Treatment consists of broad-spectrum antibiotics, but this approach oftentimes proves ineffective if a patient has resistance to any of the drugs, and it also further contributes to the issue of antibiotic resistance. In hopes of addressing this issue, Ontera Inc. and QuantuMDx Group Ltd. have launched a collaboration for the development of a next-generation solution for bloodstream infection and drug resistance detection.
 
“Today, 30 percent of patients receive inappropriate antimicrobial therapy. By not only identifying sepsis but also resistance to most common antibiotics in less than 30 minutes, we will transform the sepsis landscape and impact lives,” said Murielle Thinard McLane, CEO of Ontera. “We have set out on a mission to democratize access to molecular information to create a more sustainable planet. This collaboration with QuantuMDx is a major proof point along that mission.”
 
QuantuMDx and Ontera both bring strong bacteria-focused platforms to this agreement. QuantuMDx’s Capture-XT technology captures, concentrates and enriches target pathogens from samples for quick visual diagnosis. This platform also enables downstream utilization such as drug-susceptibility analysis, PCR, next-generation sequencing and, thanks to the combination with Ontera’s technology, nanopore detection.
 
For its part, Ontera’s sample-to-answer (SAM) NanoDetector platform can quickly amplify multiple bacterial targets to differentiate between antibiotic-resistant and susceptible strains of bacteria. By using silicon nanopore, the platform can quantitatively measure nucleic acids, proteins and small molecules within minutes.
 
Dr. Trevor J. Morin, chief scientific officer at Ontera, tells DDNews that Ontera’s responsibility under this agreement will be to establish the best partnership to fund the integration of Ontera’s and QuantuMDx’s technologies into an integrated platform. He notes that “To date, the two companies have already conducted a feasibility study and proof-of-principle exercise. The next step is to undertake a research program and develop the integrated platform.”
 
“Ontera is on a mission to accelerate access to precise biological information at the point of need. And QuantuMDx’s mission is marked by making transformative, quality diagnostic technologies accessible to everyone, so that diseases can be detected and treated earlier, and transmission eradicated,” says Morin. “This partnership plays to the strengths of both companies’ unique technologies: QuantuMDx’s ability to conduct highly sensitive, yet cost-effective, moderate multiplexing in the field, and Ontera’s ability to differentiate between live and dead bugs. Partnering these two technologies allows us to target complex infectious areas where the current diagnostic solution is culturing or sequencing.”
 
“This partnership to develop a new tool for the diagnosis of sepsis underscores both companies’ missions by providing caregivers and patients fast access to precise diagnostic information to ensure the best and most appropriate treatment,” he adds.
 
“Sepsis is one of the hardest diseases to detect. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, due to the low concentration of organisms in the blood stream that cause disease,” remarked Jonathan O’Halloran, chief scientific officer at QuantuMDx. “Our early prototype testing has already shown sensitivity in the range required for this kind of test and performed in minutes from spiked bacteria in whole blood. We haven’t even pushed the technology yet, but it has the potential to become a paradigm-shifting, powerful device. And, by including drug resistance in the assay to enable right first-time prescribing, the impact of this partnership could be profound.”
 
According to Morin, Capture-XT will be used upstream of SAM to develop “an accurate, affordable and integrated platform which detects bloodstream infections rapidly at the point of need.”
 
The SAM platform is “a highly sensitive and specific platform that can interrogate up to 20 targets simultaneously, including nucleic acids, proteins and small molecules, all in the same assay,” Morin explains, and offers multi-modal analysis at point of care in under 20 minutes. He adds that the platform also has diagnostic applications in areas such as STI panels, Resp panels and gastrointestinal panels.

Jan 12, 2020
Kelsey Kaustinen

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