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Breaking new ground with infectious disease
FARMINGTON, Conn. & DURHAM, N.C.—This August saw The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) turn its attention toward infectious disease with the announcement of a sponsored research agreement with bioMérieux USA. The companies will work together to develop more precise diagnostics for pathogens and their antimicrobial resistances in infectious diseases.
Specifically, bioMérieux will work with the laboratory of Dr. George Weinstock, a JAX professor, Evnin Family Chair and director of microbial genomics, who served as a leader on both the Human Genome Project and the Human Microbiome Project. As noted on JAX’s website, “[U]nderstanding the microbiome (the vast collection of microbes in our body with which we coexist), its interactions with its host (us) and its contributions to health and disease is a vital new research area that [Weinstock] is focusing on. The Weinstock Laboratory leverages advanced technologies to investigate infectious diseases and human and other mammalian microbiomes and their clinical impact.”
Per the terms of the research agreement, the companies will search for better methods to identify individuals at risk for infection, as well as the pathogens that cause infection and which antibiotics offer the most effective treatment. Financial terms were not disclosed.
“Our laboratory brings expertise in next-generation DNA sequencing and metagenomic analysis, which is transforming our ability to bring precision medicine to infectious diseases. bioMérieux brings a wealth of expertise in clinical microbiology and the biology and detection of microbial resistance, all critical factors in determining the right antibiotic treatment for a given infection,” commented Weinstock, who noted that the field of infectious disease is rather new territory for JAX.
“We have had a long, informal working relationship with Dr. Weinstock, starting while he was at Washington University School of Medicine and now in his new role at JAX,” Dr. William Michael Dunne, bioMérieux science office vice president, added regarding the deal. “I look forward to working with him under this new formalized framework, where I believe some very novel and exciting approaches toward diagnostic microbiology will emerge.”
On its website, bioMérieux notes that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are some two million infections resulting from antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in the United States every year—and 400,000 in Europe, according to the ENVI 2013 European Report. These infections result in an economic burden of $20 billion annually in the United States and €1 billion to €5 billion in Europe. The worst culprits, as rated by the CDC, are Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
JAX announced a similar agreement—this one also focused on Weinstock’s lab—a week earlier with Shoreline Biome, another Connecticut-based company. The neighbors inked a sponsored research to use DNA sequencing to analyze the entire metagenome (the collective genome of the microbiome) to identify individual organisms, including C. difficile.
“This project will take advantage of the expertise at JAX Genomic Medicine in metagenomics and microbiome analysis, as well as Shoreline Biome’s expertise in developing applications for the latest next-generation sequencing technologies,” Weinstock said of the agreement. “Pathogens such as C. difficile are common in hospitals and long-term care facilities, posing a major health threat. Together with Shoreline Biome, we are developing new techniques to identify these pathogens, as well as to study the wide-ranging health effects of the multitudes of microorganisms that inhabit each of us.”