UK’s Momentum Bio could help millions of hospital patients with first diagnostic test for blood infections that says whether or not to use antibiotics.

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The News:

Momentum Biosciences Ltd. (Cardiff UK) aims to pare back the unnecessary use of antimicrobial drugs in hospitals. To do this, it is developing molecular diagnostics that, within hours, tell doctors when or when not to use antibiotics in patients with a suspected blood infection, reports.

When diagnosing blood infections, physicians often need to get blood samples cultured in the lab for several days to rule out infection with bacterial or fungal pathogens, so many play it safe by prescribing antimicrobial drugs from the beginning. Momentum’s molecular diagnostics could change this by detecting enzymes common to bacteria and fungi and ruling out the need for antimicrobials in just 19 hours.

Antimicrobial resistance is a looming crisis that could make the best weapons against infection useless. Many biotechs around Europe are working on new tools to fight the problem, such as bacteria-eating viruses and the gene editing technique CRISPR-Cas9. For other companies like Finland’s Mobidiag Ltd. and Germany’s Curetis AG, speeding up infection diagnoses could tackle the crisis by helping doctors to apply antimicrobial drugs sparingly and smartly.

“About 110 million patients are tested each year for blood infection associated with sepsis. 90% of those tests are negative,” Bill Mullen, Momentum’s CSO said, according to Labiotech. “It takes five days to report a negative currently, therefore, many patients stay on antibiotics they don’t need for the whole five days.”

Founded in 2005, Momentum focuses on sepsis, which is when a patient has a severe life-threatening reaction in response to their blood being infected by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi. With a mortality rate of around one third worldwide, even the suspicion of sepsis in a patient is serious enough to warrant antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, some of which are not necessary.

This diagnostic tech is in clinical development and is showing promising results in a pilot trial including almost 200 patients with suspected sepsis.

“We are probably about a year to 18 months away from the market with this technology,” Sumi Thaker, CEO of Momentum, said.

Thaker added that they are working on a second technique to rule out bacterial or fungal infections, without a blood sample culturing step, which they hope will be achievable within three hours. However, he cautioned that this is up to three years away from entering the market.

Steve’s Take:

So, what do we have here? Not another instance of medical R&T where Europe is overtaking the USA, again?

Momentum Bioscience believes that although a number of companies are trying to produce instruments that could speed up testing patients at risk of sepsis, very few of them can, at the same time, accelerate confirmation of a negative result. That would be huge. Without this, there is wide, pre-emptive antibiotic administration and therefore ever-increasing concern about antibiotic misuse.

The team considers their assay to be one, if not the only, diagnostic instrument that can provide a result in less than one day and, at the same time for patients testing positive for sepsis, give valuable information on the type of infection to help doctors adjust antibiotic administration appropriately and thus treat patients better.

Facts and more facts

Momentum was able to CE Mark a manual version of the assay in 2015 (the Cognitor Minus) to facilitate gaining support from key opinion leaders through clinical trials. Trials have thus far been conducted at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust, University College Hospital London and Sheffield Northern General NHS Trust.

Going forward, the company intends to build on earlier aspartate aminotransferase activity (AST) feasibility work to develop a test reporting antibiotic sensitivity in under 12 hours and has begun investigating sterile fluids beyond blood for infection.

William Mullen founded Momentum in 2008. He has started four other companies–one on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM)–and has previously worked for Abbott Laboratories Inc. (Abbott Park IL) in technology acquisitions, as well as at Rowett Research Services as CEO, ANGLE Technology and Cambridge Life Sciences as head of R&D.

Momentum Bioscience raised £1,788,800 via SyndicateRoom in November 2017. (SyndicateRoom is a Cambridge, UK-based online equity investing platform, providing cross-sector private and public investments as well as running the world’s first passive EIS fund, Fund Twenty8.) The company is was launched in 2013 and authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Matthew Frohn is the co-founder of Longwall Venture Partners. Frohn has been a professional angel investor for over 15 years, focusing on startup and early-stage investments in life science and healthcare companies. According to Labiotech, Frohn chose to invest in Momentum as he believes in both the problem the company is addressing and its novel approach.

Bottom Line:

This technology has the potential to supply physicians with the information they need to use antimicrobial drugs more intelligently. Not only could it help with the drug resistance crisis, but also could reduce healthcare costs and avoid common side effects associated with more harsh treatments.

This technique could especially help patients for whom antibiotic regimes would cause problems, such as newborn babies whose mothers have an infection.

“Now you are talking about a patient group who is fragile and put on harsh antibiotics, such as aminoglycosides,” Thaker said. “There is a very real situation where the likelihood of them actually having a blood infection is very low, but they are still put on antibiotics because of the fragility of the patient.”

As mentioned above in the News, there are several other companies offering rapid diagnostic techniques, such as the US company T2 Biosystems and German biotechs Curetis and Molzym GmbH. However, Mullen said that Momentum’s technology can analyze the blood sample before a blood sample culture becomes positive, that is, before bacteria or fungi are confirmed. Furthermore, since Momentum’s technology detects the activity of DNA-editing enzymes universal to bacteria and fungi, it is able to rule out the presence of all species.

This name is proceeding in a manner destined for its ultimate acquisition by a listed company, assuming its assay moves successfully through further rounds of testing. This could happen in the next three years. Or sooner, boasts CEO Thaker.

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