CARB-X backs HelixBind to develop sepsis test

HelixBind has secured funding to develop a blood test for infections linked to sepsis. Antibiotic R&D funding partnership CARB-X is putting up the cash to cut the time it takes to learn what pathogen is responsible for a case of sepsis.

People develop sepsis when the spread of an infection around the body causes the immune system to launch an attack that results in collateral damage. The situation can quickly spiral out of control as inflammation damages tissues and interrupts blood flow, cutting off the oxygen supply to organs. The CDC estimates 250,000 Americans die from the condition each year. 

Multiple types of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria can be responsible for sepsis, making it difficult for doctors to know how to treat the root cause of a case. Laboratories can provide answers after analyzing blood cultures but this process may take several days. 

HelixBind wants to shorten the lag from sample to insight and thereby improve outcomes in patients with sepsis. The goal is identify the species of pathogen that has infected a patient from whole blood, ending the need for cultures and cutting the turnaround time from days to hours. 

Marlborough, Massachusetts-based HelixBind has spent the past few years developing its technology using a mix of awards from the NIH’s Small Business Innovation Research program and VC funding. Now, the company has added CARB-X to its list of backers. CARB-X, an antibiotic-focused partnerships involving groups in the U.S. and U.K., is awarding HelixBind $1 million, plus up to $1 million in milestones. 

“HelixBind's diagnostic project is an exciting addition to the Powered by CARB-X portfolio, building the number of diagnostics and enhancing the portfolio's diversity,” Kevin Outterson, executive director of CARB-X, said in a statement. “The ability to identify drug-resistant bacterial infections in a timely manner will enable doctors to treat patients more effectively and save lives.”