NIH Funds Nine Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostics Projects

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded more than $11 million in first-year funding for nine research projects supporting enhanced diagnostics to rapidly detect antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. The awardee institutions will develop tools to identify certain pathogens that frequently cause infections in healthcare settings and, specifically, those that are resistant to most antimicrobials. Advancing the development of rapid and innovative diagnostic tests for identifying and characterizing resistant bacteria is a key goal of the President’s recent National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

Antimicrobials have been used to successfully treat patients for more than 70 years, but the drugs have become less effective as organisms adapt to the drugs designed to kill them. Each year in the United States, more than 2 million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 people die as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Antibiotic-resistant infections also contribute to rising health care costs due to the need for more expensive treatments and prolonged hospital stays.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a serious global health threat that is undermining our ability to effectively detect, treat and prevent infections,” says NIAID director Anthony S. Fauci, MD. “One way we can combat drug resistance is by developing enhanced diagnostic tests that rapidly identify the bacteria causing an infection and their susceptibility to various antimicrobials. This will help physicians determine the most effective treatments for infected individuals and thereby reduce the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics that can contribute to the drug resistance problem.”

Each of the institutions receiving the NIAID awards will develop a diagnostic tool that identifies and provides corresponding antibiotic susceptibility information for one or more of the following bacteria: Klebsiella pneumonia; Acinetobacter baumannii; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; Enterobacter species; and Escherichia coli. The current process for diagnosing some bacterial infections can take up to three days and requires patient samples to be sent to labs where the suspected bacteria is cultured, or grown in a special medium. To make this process more rapid and efficient, diagnostic tools developed by these institutions must provide results in three hours or less and be culture-independent (able to directly detect the specified pathogen from typically sterile sites, such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid or the fluid surrounding the lungs).

The NIAID awards were made to three companies and six academic organizations. Each academic organization partnered with an industrial institution with demonstrated experience in product development to be eligible for the award. The list of recipients includes:

BioFire Diagnostics, LLC, Salt Lake City
 Project Name: FilmArray Direct: Rapid Diagnosis of Antimicrobial-Resistant Pathogens from Blood
 Principal Investigators: Andrew Hemmert, Ph.D., and Wendy Smith, Ph.D., BioFire Diagnostics, LLC
 Grant: 1 R01 AI117035-01

Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
 Project Name: Multiplexed, Non-Amplified, Nucleic Acid-Based Identification of Multidrug Resistant Pathogens Using an Integrated Optofluidic Platform
 Principal Investigator: Aaron R. Hawkins, Ph.D., Brigham Young University
 Co-principal Investigators: William Pitt, Ph.D., Richard Robison, Ph.D., and Adam Woolley, Ph.D., Brigham Young University; Holger Schmidt, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz; Robert Jenison, Great Basin Corporation; and Larry Rea, Great Basin Corporation
 Grant: 1 R01 AI116989-01

Denver Health and Hospital Authority
 Project Name: Ultrarapid Culture-Independent Detection of High-Priority Carbapenem Resistant Enterobacteriaceae Directly from Blood
 Principal Investigator: Connie Savor Price, M.D., Denver Health and Hospital Authority
 Co-principal Investigator: Steve Metzger, Accelerate Diagnostics
 Grant: 1 R01 AI116993-01

First Light Biosciences, Inc., Bedford, Massachusetts
 Project Name: Rapid Detection of Pathogens and Antimicrobial Susceptibility Directly in Patient Samples
 Principal Investigators: Don Straus, Ph.D., and Sadanand Gite, Ph.D., First Light Biosciences, Inc.
 Grant: 1 R01 AI117058-01

GeneFluidics, Inc., Irwindale, California
 Project Name: A Fully Integrated CentriFluidic System for Direct Bloodstream Infection PID/AST
 Principal Investigator: Vincent Gau, Ph.D., GeneFluidics
 Grant: 1 R01 AI117059-01

Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
 Project Name: A Droplet-Based Single Cell Platform for Pathogen Identification and AST
 Principal Investigator: Tza-Huei (Jeff) Wang, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
 Co-principal Investigator: Joseph C. Liao, M.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
 Grant: 1 R01 AI117032-01

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts
 Project Name: RNA-Based Diagnostics for Rapid Pathogen Identification and Drug Resistance
 Principal Investigator: Deborah T. Hung, M.D., Ph.D., the Broad Institute
 Grant: 1 R01 AI117043-01

University of California, Berkeley
 Project Name: Consortium for Drug-Resistant Gram-Negative Pathogen Detection
 Principal Investigators: Lee W. Riley, M.D., Luke P. Lee, Ph.D., and Niren Murthy, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
 Grant: 1 R01 AI117064-01

University of California, Irvine
 Project Name: Integrated Comprehensive Droplet Digital Detection (IC 3D) System for Rapid Detection of Bacteria and Antimicrobial Resistance
 Principal Investigator: Weian Zhao, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine
 Grant: 1 R01 AI117061-01 
Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH)