CARB-X is awarding GenomeKey in Bristol, UK, up to $3m in non-dilutive funding to develop an innovative rapid diagnostic for sepsis. GenomeKey is eligible for up to $6.5m in additional awards if the project achieves certain milestones, subject to available funds.
The new diagnostic would significantly reduce the time it takes to determine what bacteria are causing an infection and which antibiotics would be most effective in treating a patient suffering from sepsis. The diagnostic would deliver precise test results in four hours rather than the several days it can currently take. Faster diagnosis would enable appropriate treatment to be administered more quickly, a critical step for improving outcomes and saving lives in sepsis cases.
Sepsis is a leading cause of hospital deaths in many countries. Globally, an estimated 11m people die each year from sepsis. Recent studies report that sepsis kills at least 46,000 people per year in the UK with potential direct costs to the UK National Health Service at more than £1.8bn per year. In the US, the toll is similar. An estimated 1.7m American adults develop sepsis each year and nearly 270,000 die as a result, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This represents an estimated health care cost in the US of $62bn annually.
“Prompt diagnosis and treatment provide the best chance for reducing death rates and improving recovery from sepsis,” said Erin Duffy, R&D Chief of CARB-X, a non-profit global partnership led by Boston University and dedicated to supporting the development of innovative therapeutics, preventatives and diagnostics to address antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. “GenomeKey’s innovative technology aims to accelerate diagnosis and deliver vital antibacterial susceptibility information that could take the guesswork out of treatment decisions in the first critical hours of illness.”
Studies show that the risk of dying from sepsis increases by as much as 8% for every hour that treatment is delayed. Currently, it can take between 24 and 72 hours for laboratories to produce results.
“The technology GenomeKey is building will enable clinicians to diagnose and treat sepsis faster, and reduce unnecessary antibiotic consumption. Sepsis can kill within hours, and yet the gold standard test for this disease currently takes days,“ said Dr Michael Roberts, GenomeKey CEO. “At GenomeKey, we are changing this by combining advances in DNA sequencing with our unique genomic technology and machine learning to deliver a next-generation diagnostic that will provide clinical answers in only hours, and enable clinicians to confidently put their patients on targeted antibiotics sooner.”
GenomeKey’s diagnostic project aims to accurately determine the presence of bacteria from a blood sample, identify the bacterial species and determine its antibacterial susceptibility, all within a matter of hours. The technology combines innovative methods to separate bacterial DNA from human DNA in whole blood, next generation DNA sequencing and innovative machine learning to interpret the antimicrobial susceptibility of the bacterial DNA.
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a patient’s immune system overreacts to an infection that has entered the bloodstream. In normal circumstances, immune defences are capable of fighting off invading bacteria and viruses, but in sepsis, the invading pathogens overcome these defences, leading to rapid deterioration of the patient’s condition, and potentially to organ failure and death. Administration of the appropriate treatment early on, for example an antibiotic known to be effective against the bacteria, is vital. Some people are at higher risk of contracting infection and developing sepsis. These include the very young, the very old, those with chronic illnesses, and those with a weakened or impaired immune system.