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New Funds Awarded for Rapid Infection Diagnostics

Hospital room

(Fernando Zhiminaicela, Pixabay.

21 Oct. 2022. A developer of faster infection diagnostics is receiving another $8.2 million from an international group supporting solutions to antibiotic resistant microbes. Day Zero Diagnostics Inc. in Boston is receiving a new grant from the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator, or Carb-X, a consortium of U.S. and European agencies and organizations to fight antibiotic resistance.

Microbes like bacteria and fungi are evolving to become increasingly resistant to antibiotic drugs designed for their control, resulting in a growing public health crisis. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.8 million infections from antibiotic-resistant microbes occur in the U.S. each year, leading to more than 35,000 deaths. Worldwide, says the agency, some 1.3 million deaths result from antibiotic-resistant microbes.

Day Zero Diagnostics is a six year-old company that seeks to sharply reduce the time needed to diagnose life-threatening bacterial infections, particularly from sepsis and other microbes found in health care facilities. Sepsis often begins a cascade of reactions in the immune system that quickly spreads in the body resulting in tissue damage, organ failure, and death. The company cites data showing the risk of death from septic shock rises by eight percent each hour a patient with sepsis goes untreated. Moreover, says Day Zero, current diagnostic techniques require sending test samples to remote labs for analysis, a process that takes two to five days and fails in 40 percent of severe infections.

The company says its process employs whole-genome sequencing of samples and machine learning algorithms to speed up analysis of patient blood samples to detect and characterize infectious bacteria. Day Zero says it first extracts bacterial DNA directly from patients’ blood samples, followed by an enrichment process to quickly boost the concentration of bacterial DNA in the samples to allow for whole-genome sequencing of that DNA. Whole-genome sequencing is becoming a more common practice in microbial diagnostics, but the company says its process cuts the time needed to return results from days to hours.

Second Carb-X award

Aiding its analysis, says Day Zero, are a set of machine learning algorithms for bacterial species detection and characterization. Those algorithms, says Day Zero, identify detailed properties of suspect bacteria, particularly resistance characteristics, and antibiotic susceptibility of bacteria to pinpoint drugs most likely to treat the infections. The company says it maintains large-scale data sets on microbes, including genomics and traits of species, to train its algorithms.

Carb-X is a not-for-profit consortium of government health agencies in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, as well as charitable and research foundations, seeking to quickly boost the pipeline of new drugs and diagnostics to combat drug-resistant bacteria. In May 2020, Day Zero received a $6.2 million grant from Carb-X to advance development of the company’s technology. With the initial award, the company became eligible for an additional $18.7 million in funds, based on meeting specified milestones.

Yesterday, says Day Zero, Carb-X exercised an option for follow-up funding, and awarded another $8.2 million to the company. That funding is expected to help Day Zero further develop its technology into a working diagnostic product.

“Day Zero’s whole genome sequencing and machine learning technology,” says Carb-X’s R&D chief Erin Duffy in a Day Zero Diagnostics statement, “is a novel approach that could change the way infectious disease is diagnosed, help curb antibiotic resistance, and save lives.”

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