Merck backs microbial Dx outfit as concern about treatment-resistant strains grows

Diagnostics company AdvanDx is getting a $12 million infusion from the Merck Global Health Innovation Fund to expand its product offerings and sales and marketing efforts in the U.S. and abroad.

The Series B-1 funding arrives in the wake of AdvanDx's 510(k) submission to FDA for its mecA XpressFISH test, which the company describes in a statement as "a novel method for the rapid detection of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from positive blood cultures." In November 2013 the company received a CE mark for a 20-minute test for the identification of yeast from positive blood cultures, according to the statement.

"This latest round of financing will enable us to expand our product portfolio in order to help hospitals improve patient outcomes and reduce overall healthcare costs," said Dr. Dennis Langer, CEO of AdvanDx, in a statement.

AdvanDx focuses on developing diagnostics for bloodstream infections and other bacteria. Interest in antibacterials waned as areas like oncology took center stage, but concern about treatment-resistant strains is growing, including among industry players.

In February, Roche ($RHHBY) teamed up with Cambridge, U.K.'s Discuva to conduct research on multidrug-resistant bacteria. In addition, Germany's Evotec AG and Harvard University announced in May 2013 that they will hunt for and develop novel antibacterial agents in hopes of creating a new class of antibiotics.

Now it's Merck's ($MRK) turn to invest in bacterial diseases.

"As the problem of antimicrobial resistance continues to grow worldwide, products that help hospitals implement antimicrobial stewardship programs are urgently needed," said David Rubin, managing director at Merck GHI, in a statement.

On its website AdvanDx says its products help doctors optimize antibiotic therapy quickly so that they can minimize unnecessary medication while reducing costs.

Still, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden, recently warned that the pipeline for new antibiotics is "nearly empty for the short-term."

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