Seattle biotech startup ID Genomics, Inc. has been awarded a prestigious three-year, $3 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The company will use the funds to continue development of its molecular digital technology to compile a database of antibiotic resistance profiles of individual bacterial strains. This database can then be used by doctors to quickly identify bacteria in clinical specimens in order to prescribe the correct antibiotic within minutes of seeing the patient.

The grant was given by NIH’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, which provides federal grants to startups that work in collaboration with research institutions to develop novel biomedical technologies. The NIH STTR program is extremely competitive with a high rejection rate. Since 2006, only a handful of companies nationwide have received such a large award.

“We are honored that the NIH believes so strongly in our research and the incredible opportunity it presents,” says Dr. Evgeni Sokurenko, who is the founder of ID Genomics and professor of microbiology at the University of Washington.

ID Genomics’ mission is to tackle the growing problem of antibiotic resistance that results in $20 billion of excess healthcare costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the U.S. alone, several million people are seen in the doctor’s office or admitted to emergency rooms or hospitals with suspected bacterial infections every year. These patients are prescribed on the spot with antibiotics largely based upon a doctor’s “best guess.”

Unsurprisingly, antibiotic treatment fails in 15% to 30% of patients, who must return for a new, and hopefully correct, antibiotic. In addition to worsening antibiotic resistance, this inadequate process can result in more severe infections and hospitalizations, driving up mortality and healthcare costs.

To address this problem, ID Genomics is developing a rapid (30-minute) genetic “barcoding” test that diagnoses bacterial infections and guides antibiotic choices before a patient leaves the clinic. ID Genomics’ barcodes, which uniquely identify bacterial strains, are stored in a proprietary database and are linked to particular antibiotic resistance profiles.

“Within the same bacterial species are individual ‘crime families,’ each of which has its own antibiotic resistance profile,” Dr. Sokurenko explains. “When doctors see a certain ‘criminal’ in the clinic, our technology will help them identify the associated antibiotic rap sheet and so choose the best treatment option.”

The Company’s prototype test, called CloNeTTM, is being developed for urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by E. coli and other bacteria. In the U.S. alone, about 7 million UTIs occur annually, incurring a cost of approximately $4 billion, which does not include severe complications like UTI-derived blood stream infections.

In addition to developing its pilot test for UTIs, ID Genomics is focusing on bacteria causing other infectious diseases, such as sepsis and pneumonia. Eventually, ID Genomics plans to identify and monitor most antibiotic-resistant pathogens in a global epidemiological surveillance network.

“We must be good antibiotic stewards,” Dr. Sokurenko warns. “It is crucial to lowering healthcare costs and slowing the spread of antibiotic resistance.”

ID Genomics is seeking both investors and strategic partners to expand its proprietary technology and surveillance network.

ID Genomics, Inc.
Alex Berezow, 206-336-5567