Friday, January 31, 2020

Rapid Microbiological Methods Online Master Class - April 1-2, 2020

For the first time ever, I am offering my intensive two-day Rapid Microbiological Methods Master Class online! This will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, April 1st and 2nd, 2020, from 10:00 AM EDT to 2:30 PM EDT. This live, online class will discuss the same industry best practices I have taught in similar training programs around the world. Attendees will be immersed in discussions regarding current regulatory policies and expectations, guidance on rapid sterility testing for gene and cell therapies (ATMP), validation strategies, statistical analysis, technology reviews and return-on-investment considerations. For the complete agenda and information on how to register, please visit http://rapidmicromethods.com/events/masterclass-april2020.php.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Portable Nanohole Device Will Rapidly Diagnose Sepsis

EPFL researchers have developed a highly sensitive and portable optical biosensor that stands to accelerate the diagnosis of fatal conditions like sepsis. It could be used by ambulances and hospitals to improve the triage process and save lives. Their press release and associated reference paper are provided below.

Sepsis claims one life every four seconds. It is the primary cause of death in hospitals, and one of the ten leading causes of death worldwide. Sepsis is associated with the body’s inflammatory response to a bacterial infection and progresses extremely rapidly: every hour that goes by before it is properly diagnosed and treated increases the mortality rate by nearly 8%. Time is critical with sepsis, but the tests currently used in hospitals can take up to 72 hours to provide a diagnosis.

Many scientists are working on this critical issue, including those at Abionic, an EPFL spin-off. Researchers at the Laboratory of Bionanophotonic Systems (BIOS) at EPFL’s School of Engineering have just unveiled a new technology. They have developed an optical biosensor that slashes the sepsis diagnosis time from several days to just a few minutes. Their novel approach draws on recent developments in nanotechnology and on light effects at a nano scale to create a highly portable, easy-to-use device that can rapidly detect sepsis biomarkers in a patient’s bloodstream. And their device takes just a few minutes to deliver a result, like a pregnancy test.

Because the biosensor uses a unique plasmonics technology, it can be built from small, inexpensive components, yet it can achieve an accuracy on par with gold-standard laboratory methods. The device can screen a large panel of biomarkers and be adapted for the rapid diagnosis of a number of diseases. It was installed at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Spain and used in blind tests to examine patient samples from the hospital’s sepsis bank. The researchers’ technology is patent-pending, and their findings were recently published in Small.

Trapping biomarkers in nanoholes

The device employs an optical metasurface – in this case a thin gold sheet containing arrays of billions of nanoholes. The metasurface concentrates light around the nanoholes so as to allow for exceptionally precise biomarker detection. With this type of metasurface, the researchers can detect sepsis biomarkers in a blood sample with nothing more than a simple LED and a standard CMOS camera.

L'appareil est compact et abordable© Alain Herzog / EPFL 2020

The researchers begin by adding a solution of special nanoparticles to the sample that are designed to capture the biomarkers. They then distribute this mixture on the metasurface. “Any nanoparticles that contain captured biomarkers are trapped quickly by antibodies on the nanoholes,” says Alexander Belushkin, the lead author of the study. When an LED is applied, those nanoparticles partially obstruct the light passing through the perforated metasurface. “These nano-scale interactions are imaged by the CMOS camera and digitally counted in real-time at high precision,” says Filiz Yesilkoy, the study’s co-author. The generated images are used to rapidly determine whether disease biomarkers are present in a sample and, if so, in what concentration. They used the new device to measure the blood serum levels of two important sepsis relevant biomarkers, procalcitonin and C-reactive protein. Doctors can use this information to accelerate the triage of sepsis patients, ultimately saving lives.

“We believe our low-cost, compact biosensor would be a valuable piece of equipment in ambulances and certain hospital wards,” says Hatice Altug, the head of BIOS. Scientists already have possible applications in mind. “There is an urgent need for such promising biosensors so that doctors can diagnosis sepsis accurately and quickly, thereby keeping patient mortality to a minimum,” say Anna Fàbrega and Juan José González, lead doctors at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital.

Reference

Alexander Belushkin, Filiz Yesilkoy, Juan Jose González‐López, Juan Carlos Ruiz‐Rodríguez, Ricard Ferrer, Anna Fàbrega, Hatice Altug, Rapid and Digital Detection of Inflammatory Biomarkers Enabled by a Novel Portable Nanoplasmonic Imager, Small

Source: École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

Monday, January 20, 2020

Imperial College Scientists Win €22.5m EU Funding to Develop Rapid Test Based on Gene Signatures

A rapid test to diagnose severe illnesses, using personalised gene signatures, is being developed by scientists at Imperial College London.

The new approach could speed up diagnosis times for many serious conditions including pneumonia, tuberculosis, sepsis, meningitis, and inflammatory and immune diseases, to under two hours.

The landmark project, involving an international consortium led by Imperial, has been awarded a major EU grant worth €22.5m over five years, to develop the test and bring it to hospitals across Europe. The current stepwise process of diagnosing infectious and inflammatory diseases involves doing many different blood tests and scans which can be slow and inefficient, meaning that there may be significant delays before the right treatment is given.

The researchers believe diagnosis can be made accurately and rapidly on the first blood sample taken when a patient attends a hospital or health centre, by identifying the pattern of genes switched on in each patient’s blood.

Unique gene signatures

The team of scientists, led by Imperial’s Professor Michael Levin from the Department of Infectious Disease, believe that the test could completely change the way patients are diagnosed.

The work will build on over a decade of research into the pattern of genes switched on in the blood in different conditions.

The team’s previous research discovered that each disease is associated with a unique pattern of genes that are switched on or off – which form a ‘molecular signature’ – which can be used to rapidly identify each disease.

Earlier studies using the technique found that it could predict a bacterial infection with 95-100 per cent accuracy.

The international group will build a ‘library of gene signatures’ where the signatures of all common infectious and inflammatory diseases will be stored and made publicly available.

By comparing the pattern of genes in each patient’s blood sample with the signature of all diseases in the ‘gene signature library’, the diagnosis in each individual can be made rapidly.

Currently if a patient enters hospital with symptoms such as a high fever and feeling unwell they could go through a whole series of investigations, such as blood tests, spinal fluid samples, MRI and CT scans, while medics try to identify the cause.

Patients can also be treated with antibiotics unnecessarily as a precaution in case they have a bacterial infection. Investigations can take days or weeks before an accurate diagnosis is made, delaying treatment, taking up resources and costing vast amounts of money.

Gene library

The team will spend the next two years building the library of gene signatures covering all common conditions.

In parallel to the search for diagnostic signatures, engineering and industry members of the team will develop novel device prototypes that can quickly and accurately determine gene expression in a blood sample – this is done by measuring the number of RNA molecules each gene is making.

They will turn this into a rapid test platform that can measure the small number of genes needed to diagnose most common infectious and inflammatory diseases. In the final stage they will conduct a trial of the new diagnostic approach compared to current diagnosis.

The team believe that measurement of 100-150 genes will enable identification of all common infectious and inflammatory diseases, and that this can be achieved within 1-2 hours, so a final diagnosis can be made rapidly and avoiding unnecessary investigations and treatment.

New approach to diagnosis

The scientists have called this new approach Personalised Molecular Signature Diagnosis (PMSD) and they aim to conduct the first pilot trials in UK and European hospitals in 2023 and 2024.

Project lead, Professor Michael Levin, from the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, said: “We’re very confident that identifying the pattern of genes switched on in each patient will enable us to make an accurate diagnosis rapidly, as every disease has its own unique signature.

“The ambition is to develop a rapid test that will make the correct diagnosis based on the gene signature on the first blood sample taken when a patient arrives in hospital, and with the result within 1-2 hours. In the future the whole basis of medical diagnosis could be based on molecular signatures.”

Dr Myrsini Kaforou, from the Department of Infectious Disease, said: “This award has resulted from several years collaborative and cross disciplinary work, linking the strength of Imperial in computational biology and big data analysis, genomics, and clinical medicine and engineering, with partner institutions across Europe.

"The DIAMONDS project has drawn from strengths of different departments at Imperial, and reflects what can be achieved in cross disciplinary research.”

The project, named DIAMONDS (Diagnosis and Management of Febrile Illness using RNA Personalised Molecular Signature Diagnosis), involves teams in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Slovenia, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Gambia, Australia, Nepal and the UK.

The group will recruit thousands of patients from across Europe with conditions caused by infections, and inflammation. It is being funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Actions.

The project is very multidisciplinary, also including the team of Dr. Pantelis Georgiou from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, who will be developing a rapid point of care test using microchip technology to detect the gene signatures, and Dr Jethro Herberg, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Infectious Diseases, who was previously involved with the PERFORM study.

The team’s previous projects, ILULU, EUCLIDS and PERFORM have successfully identified gene patterns for several conditions such as tuberculosis, Kawasaki disease, bacterial and viral infections.

The EU has awarded Professor Michael Levin nearly 60 million euros since 2006. This vital funding paved the way for early studies and collaborations with partners across Europe.

In 2006, the EU awarded Professor Levin and his team 5 million euros to study tuberculosis. This initial grant enabled his team to begin using molecular signatures to diagnose TB.

Then in 2012, Professor Levin was awarded a 12 million euros grant to study the genetic factors that influence children’s susceptibility to bacterial infections. The EUCLIDS project, funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7), involved 14 partner institutions in six countries.

In 2016, the EU awarded the team a further 18 million euros to develop a rapid test to allow medics to quickly identify bacterial infection in children. The PERFORM project built on their previous research that showed bacterial illnesses can be identified by a particular patterns of genes and proteins.

The new DIAMONDS project has been awarded 22.5 million to bring the revolutionary approach to diagnosis to hospitals across Europe.

Professor Levin said: “The EU has been our most valuable source of funding and has enabled us to establish a wonderful network of researchers in different countries working together, with exchange of ideas and movement of young scientists between countries.

“We were able to pull in expertise of the best laboratories from across Europe. It opened up a new way of doing research that wouldn’t have been possible without the EU funding.”

Source: Imperial College London