Embryyo: Pune, India

See this team's Longitude Prize entry page

This team successfully won a Discovery Award seed-funding grant to help further develop their ideas for their Longitude Prize application and create a diagnostic test  that helps solve the problem of global antibiotic resistance. Below we have asked them to explain their test and motivation for applying.

Please explain your test. 

Our test will be able to detect bacterial or viral infection in the bloodstream.

Human blood is a mixture of hundreds of thousands of small cells of different sizes  circulating in a fluid called the blood serum. In case of a blood stream infection, the disease causing bacteria or virus cells flow in the blood stream. Counting the number of such bacterial or viral cells very early on is essential for diagnosis and guiding treatment.

Currently, early detection is difficult and time consuming. While doctors are waiting for lab results the condition of the patients can worsen.This means in practice that doctors are not able to treat quickly with confidence.

We are addressing this challenge using fluid mechanics and physical properties of these cells in the blood.  Since cells that carry viruses and bacteria have varying electric charges, they have a tendency to respond differently when an external electric field is applied.

With a combination of hydrodynamic and electrical forces we plan to separate these cells to a point where we are able to isolate the bacterial or viral cells from the remaining normal blood cells. Once these cells are isolated and trapped in the desired chambers of the test, we can determine the concentration and the identity of the cells.

Please share a more detailed description of this work from a medical professional's perspective.

We are working on a diagnostic device which can facilitate in early detection of bacterial or viral infection in the bloodstream, at the very onset of a pathogenic infection when the pathogen counts are still very low. The diagnostic device consequently can also potentially aid in the differential diagnosis of bacterial versus viral infections. The technology is based on microfluidic cell separation and flow focusing micro-devices and integration with downstream sensor modules which will be developed as a part of this project. The proposed diagnostic device is intended to trap and isolate the bacterial and viral cells that might be present in an infected blood sample.

Why did you apply and what will the Discovery Award funding be used for in your work?

We are a medical technology R&D company with a vision to create breakthrough medical devices solving pressing clinical needs which could have a long-lasting impact on human health globally. Antimicrobial resistance is one such problem which gives us the opportunity to leverage our deep technology skills and experience in the domain of microfluidics, BioMEMS, microbiology and micro-fabrication in our effort to build a fast and efficient diagnostic device for blood-stream infections. The Discovery Award funding will be utilized in the development, testing and characterization of microfluidic platforms for selective cell sorting and entrapment and the subsequent bacterial or viral load measurement based on their electrical properties..

What difference will your work make in the long term with regards to antimicrobial diagnostics?

The proposed work gives the opportunity to develop a system that can be made modular to accommodate complementary anti-microbial susceptibility systems. The system enables us to introduce active mechanisms to the current detect and count on-chip protocol, by serving as control microchip, to compare and quantify variables in the pathogenic environments upon the addition of active components (test microchip) to enable susceptibility testing.

We envision the system to be an entry-level platform that is easy and flexible to integration with complex antimicrobial susceptibility testing platforms. Cost to the user would be low as biochemical agents are neither used nor any prior sample preparation is required. Time to detection would also be low.

Who is on your team?

Prof. Amit Agrawal, PhD (Institute Chair Professor, IIT Bombay)
Dr. Vikram Padbidri (Consultant and Head, Department of Microbiology and Infection Control, Jehangir Hospital)
Nishant Kumar (Chief Executive Officer)
Prateek Jain (Chief Technology Officer)
Apoorva Bedekar (Clinical Application Specialist)
Sonali Tripathy (Product Manager)

If you are interested in collaborating with this team, longitude [dot] prize [at] nesta [dot] org [dot] uk (please email us).