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Revolutionizing bacterial diagnosis to fight antibiotic resistance

October 2020   Pattern’s mission is simple and bold:  to define the standard for some of the world’s most important health decisions. Tackling a global health threat, like antimicrobial resistance, is not for the faint of heart, but the experienced and innovative team at Pattern Bioscience is just audacious enough to do it. Worldwide, at least 700,000 deaths annually are attributed to drug-resistant bacterial infections, and that number shows no sign of slowing down unless dramatic action is taken.


In areas of the body where most infections occur, there are myriad bacteria besides those causing an infection. This complicated microbial ecosystem makes it difficult to understand which of those bacteria are causing the infection and how they will respond to antibiotics. Pattern is dedicated to transforming pathogen identification and antibody susceptibility testing within acute care settings to optimize decision making for deadly infections, such as pneumonia and sepsis. “Bacterial infections really need to be diagnosed at single-cell resolution,” said Nick Arab, Co-Founder & CEO of Pattern Bioscience. “Our team is developing novel technology that allows the entire demographics of an infected site to be understood.”


“Pattern’s next-gen clinical microbiology platform will set new standards in antibiotic susceptibility testing,” said Nick Naclerio, Ph.D., Founding Partner at Illumina Ventures. “By measuring phenotypic bacterial response at single-cell resolution, Pattern is meeting the challenge of antibiotic resistance with an innovative platform that is poised to revolutionize bacterial diagnosis.” 

Essential advancement

Antibiotics are a foundation of modern medicine. In addition to our reliance upon them to treat bacterial infection, many procedures and drugs‒like chemotherapy‒require antibiotics to keep patients healthy when they’re immune-compromised. Quality of life surgeries, such as hip replacements, will be too risky to undertake if antibiotics are unreliable safety nets. Looking at the spectrum of antibiotic use, resistance could be devastating to society and the entire health system.


According to the WHO, the number of people who die each year from drug-resistance bacterial infections could soar to 10 million by the year 2050. The team at Pattern is motivated by the potential of their technology to address this threat, and they are not the only ones who see the value of their innovative platform.


Pattern has been recognized by CARB-X, a global non-profit partnership dedicated to tackling the rising threat of drug-resistant bacteria with a grant worth up to $22 million. The award represents one of the largest from CARB-X since it was launched in 2016. “I’ve never seen a consortium like this,” said Arab, “a public and private initiative including BARDA, the NIH, the German government, the UK government, the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, all coming together to pool their money in an attempt to stave off this global threat. It is a truly unique partnership.”

Ultimate precision medicine

With Pattern’s Digital Culture™ technology, healthcare professionals will benefit from the comprehensive accuracy of bacterial culture in a rapid testing format. Delivering pathogen identification (ID) and antibiotic susceptibility test (AST) results together within four hours, this powerful technology is designed to fit easily within existing workflows and to provide results that will influence the course of this global health threat. 


The current ID and AST process doesn’t yield results for multiple days, which induces overuse and misuse of antibiotics on a large scale. “Today, many patients are initially given a sub-optimal antibiotic regimen because bacterial identification and antibiotic susceptibility results take 2-4 days. Physicians are forced into a best-guess based on patient factors and symptoms until the results are received,” said Arab.


Rather than waiting for a culture to grow prior to testing, Digital Culture will allow testing directly from the specimen, eliminating the time-consuming step of bacterial colony growth and isolation. By providing results in only four hours, Digital Culture will enable the antibiotics to be optimized for the infecting organism days sooner than is currently possible. This technology will be vital in helping to slow antibiotic resistance and improve individual patient outcomes by allowing physicians to treat infections using targeted antibiotics.


A path to approval

Pattern is accelerating the development and validation of Digital Culture thanks to its recently closed B1-round of funding. As Pattern moves towards FDA clearance of its patented diagnostics platform, it recognizes the need for partnerships across the board to ensure its technology is utilized for the greatest level of impact. For example, Pattern plans to work closely with antibiotic stewardship teams within the hospitals to optimize implementation, since those teams are charged with ensuring patients are on the proper antibiotic as soon as possible. “Digital Culture will provide the insights necessary to change the way antibiotics are prescribed and reduce the risk of antibiotic misuse,” added Naclerio. “Illumina Ventures is excited to support this life-changing innovation.”

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