SymCel, TiKa Diagnostics and St George’s University partner to use calScreener in antimicrobial susceptibility testing

Published: 10-Nov-2016

SymCel, the company behind the revolutionary cell-based assay tool for real-time cellular bioenergetic measurements, calScreener, has partnered with TiKa Diagnostics and St George’s University of London, for the use of its microcalorimetry technology in testing mycobacteria and for antimicrobial peptide (AMP) studies

The rapid detection of antimicrobial resistance is now crucial to maximise efforts in controlling the prevalence and spread of drug resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). Moreover, the development of novel agents, such as AMPs, able to combat superbugs and interfere with biofilm formation, has become a key necessity.

The project between Symcel and TiKa Diagnostics, a spin-out from St George’s University of London, has the potential to enable rapid Mtb culture confirmation, reducing detection time to just 2–6 days rather than the average 12–14 day timespan required using conventional culture testing techniques.

Furthermore, faster detection will provide an increased scope for accurately predicting optimal antibiotic treatments for patients. SymCel’s novel detection system will be combined with TiKa Diagnostics’ new method of sample preparation and mycobacterium growth enhancement – overcoming the main challenges that impede the use of mycobacteria in clinical diagnostics.

Symcel’s calScreener is the world’s first multichannel microcalorimetry system for antimicrobial susceptibility testing. The technology, which measures heat for accurate diagnostics, is 1000 times more sensitive than fluorescence, which enables the much faster detection. TiKa Diagnostics has discovered a compound able to speed up growth of slow growing pathogenic mycobacteria in cell culture, increasing recovery rates, test sensitivity and reducing contamination levels from 20% to just 1%.

One calScreener machine has been installed at a BioSafety Category 3 facility at TiKa Diagnostics. The technology is being tested for use in detection and antimicrobial susceptibility testing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the cause of tuberculosis in humans, Mycobacterium bovis, the cause of tuberculosis in cattle that can sometimes be passed to humans, and Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), the cause of Johne’s Disease in cows – reducing their milk production and reproductive capabilities.

Symcel’s technology has also been installed at a Biosafety Category 2 facility at St George’s University of London that is dedicated to the development of new drug treatments that work specifically on multidrug resistant bacteria. calScreener will be used to study antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and their interaction with superbugs. It will also test the surface modification of plastics to prevent biofilm formation and the capability of AMPs to cause the destruction of existing biofilms.

Magnus Jansson, Chief Scientific Officer at Symcel, remarked: 'By utilising our calScreener assay, it is possible to more accurately measure the surivival rates of superbugs – overcoming the problem of it often being unclear whether cells are alive or dead. Moreover, our technolology enables the live, real-time monitoring of the metabolic state of superbugs.'

Christer Wallin, CEO of Symcel, commented: 'We are delighted to have partnered with TiKa Diagnostics and St George’s University of London for research into these critically important fields. Indeed, we look forward to working with them to show the beneficial impact of our calScreener technology and calorimetry approach for highly efficient, highly accurate and fast detection of antimicrobial resistance.'

Dr Kai Hilpert, Director, TiKa Diagnsotics, said: 'We are very pleased to have the opportunity to work with SymCel and to provide a new research model in the field of antimicrobial susceptibility testing – one that combines our novel substance with their innovative technology. We are confident that this is set to provide the healthcare market with a solution that will enable patients to obtain the right treatment faster. It is also likely to enable a greater proportion of patients suffering from tuberculosis to receive a confirmational diagnosis using direct bacterial cell culture.'

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