NIH gives Kansas City startup $3M to come up with a quicker sepsis Dx test

A Kansas City startup nailed down $3 million in grant money from the National Institutes of Health to develop a diagnostic test that screens for sepsis more quickly than possible under current standards of care.

ImpeDx Diagnostics CEO Steve O'Connor told the Kansas City Business Journal that the funding would help the company produce a prototype. ImpeDx would need to raise more cash than that, up to $2 million in additional investment, to fully back anticipated clinical testing.

On its website, the company describes its technology as essentially relying on using AC voltage to measure bacteria pathogens in the body. Other sepsis tests rely on detecting bacteria byproducts, but because ImpeDx doesn't need to do this, it can deliver results much more quickly with a much higher level of sensitivity, O'Connor told the newspaper.

Sepsis is a hardcore, hospital-acquired infection that worsens rapidly, can lead to inflammation and harms vital organs. As the Mayo Clinic notes, the risk is that the infection will advance to septic shock, which can dramatically drop blood pressure and cause a patient's death. Elderly people or patients with weak immune systems are particularly vulnerable, the hospital explained on its website.

ImpeDx, which launched in 2013, has found itself in a pretty important diagnostic space. Quicker diagnosis of sepsis could lead to faster treatment and potentially boost everything from survival rates to the standard of care, and the development of better sepsis treatments. Reducing rates of sepsis will also help better manage healthcare costs. Underscoring that sense of urgency, however, there are already plenty of researchers and companies focused on similar or related sepsis diagnostic work.

For example, researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati came up with a blood test that screens for 5 protein biomarkers that can help differentiate septic shock patients and high or low risk for death. Swiss diagnostics and drug conglomerate Debiopharm is backing startup Immunexpress' development of a late-stage sepsis test. France's BioMérieux acquired BioFire Diagnostics in Utah last year and gained access to cutting-edge diagnostics technology designed to eventually test for sepsis, diarrhea, meningitis and other infectious diseases. King's College London, among others, is also advancing development of a rapid sepsis test.

In other words, ImpeDx is focused on a space that is drawing an increasing amount of market attention. But there is plenty of research ahead before it can successfully bring a test to market, and lots of competition in the works focused on doing the same thing. The work to come holds promise, but ImpeDx has entered a race with an increasing amount of competitors, and it is unclear at this point who will come out on the winning side of things.

- read the full Kansas City Business Journal story

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