Researchers have developed a sequencing application and associated bioinformatics techniques to rapidly and accurately identify pathogens. Data and samples are analyzed using the research team's bioinformatic approach that uses a Bayesian reassignment model to accurately identify pathogens to a known database with 1) high accuracy, even 2) with low coverage, and 3) with mixed samples, 4) no need for sequence assembly, and 5) report back not only accurate species diagnostics, but also relevant information on antibiotic/antiviral resistance mutations. Most approaches currently used rely on old microbiology techniques for growing cultures from samples (a week long process) and identifying pathogens through visual inspection. This approach has the added advantage, because it is a genomic approach, of also providing insights into drug resistance through the identification of drug resistant variants thus better informing treatment options.

Accurate and rapid pathogen diagnostics is critical to a number of areas of commercial importance including food safety, human health, and veterinary medicine. This approach has the potential to revolutionize pathogen diagnostics in multiple areas including food safety, hospital hygiene, veterinary care, and human health. The approach used by the research team has the potential to be more rapid, accurate, and cost-effective. It capitalizes on next-generation sequence data to characterize the diversity and extent of pathogen infection.

Project Report

Our NSF iCorps award provided funding for customer discovery for our concept for molecular pathogen diagnostics. Additionally, we received extensive training on the "Lean Startup" concept as preparation for launching our company in molecular pathogen diagnostics. The major outcome of the award was the establishment of a service-based pathogen detection company based in Ashburn, Virginia - Aperiomics. Bearing an apt name based on the Latin word aperio (which means 'to reveal'), the young company is rolling out a package of three next-generation sequencing services to provide laboratories, public health care, and businesses the tools they need to make rapid and exact identification of known and unknown pathogens, whether bacteria, virus, fungus, or parasite. Our unique process addresses the biggest challenge in applying next-generation sequencing to real-world analysis – making sense of the massive amount of data spawned by the sequencing. From a single test, Aperiomics’ innovative technology can simultaneously test for all pathogens, using an unbiased sequencing and genomic analysis approach. The range of samples can include tissue, blood, plant, animal, or environmental. With their novel combination of genomics and informatics, the company capitalizes on high-throughput next-generation sequencing and advanced Bayesian statistics to produce faster and better results than culture-based methods and even more accurate results than other currently available molecular-based approaches. The NSF i-Corps award allowed us to define our market, develop strategic partners, and capitalize on the excitment of early evangelists identified through the customer discovery process. We are off and running as one of the newest BioTech startups in Loudoun County, VA.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
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Rathindra DasGupta
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George Washington University
United States
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