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NIH Funds Nine Projects for Rapid Detection of Antimicrobial-Resistant Bacteria

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded more than $11 million in first-year funding for nine research projects supporting enhanced diagnostics to rapidly detect antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. The awardee institutions will develop tools to identify certain pathogens that frequently cause infections in health care settings and, specifically, those that are resistant to most antimicrobials. Advancing the development of rapid and innovative diagnostic tests for identifying and characterizing resistant bacteria is a key goal of the President’s recent National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

Antimicrobials have been used to successfully treat patients for more than 70 years, but the drugs have become less effective as organisms adapt to the drugs designed to kill them. Each year in the United States, more than 2 million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 people die as a result, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotic-resistant infections also contribute to rising health care costs due to the need for more expensive treatments and prolonged hospital stays.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a serious global health threat that is undermining our ability to effectively detect, treat and prevent infections,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “One way we can combat drug resistance is by developing enhanced diagnostic tests that rapidly identify the bacteria causing an infection and their susceptibility to various antimicrobials. This will help physicians determine the most effective treatments for infected individuals and thereby reduce the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics that can contribute to the drug resistance problem.”

Each of the institutions receiving the NIAID awards will develop a diagnostic tool that identifies and provides corresponding antibiotic susceptibility information for one or more of the following bacteria: Klebsiella pneumonia; Acinetobacter baumannii; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; Enterobacter species; and Escherichia coli. The current process for diagnosing some bacterial infections can take up to three days and requires patient samples to be sent to labs where the suspected bacteria is cultured, or grown in a special medium. To make this process more rapid and efficient, diagnostic tools developed by these institutions must provide results in three hours or less and be culture-independent (able to directly detect the specified pathogen from typically sterile sites, such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid or the fluid surrounding the lungs).

The NIAID awards were made to three companies and six academic organizations. Each academic organization partnered with an industrial institution with demonstrated experience in product development to be eligible for the award. The list of recipients includes:

BioFire Diagnostics, LLC, Salt Lake City
Project Name: FilmArray Direct: Rapid Diagnosis of Antimicrobial-Resistant Pathogens from Blood
Principal Investigators: Andrew Hemmert, Ph.D., and Wendy Smith, Ph.D., BioFire Diagnostics, LLC
Grant: 1 R01 AI117035-01

Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Project Name: Multiplexed, Non-Amplified, Nucleic Acid-Based Identification of Multidrug Resistant Pathogens Using an Integrated Optofluidic Platform
Principal Investigator: Aaron R. Hawkins, Ph.D., Brigham Young University
Co-principal Investigators: William Pitt, Ph.D., Richard Robison, Ph.D., and Adam Woolley, Ph.D., Brigham Young University; Holger Schmidt, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz; Robert Jenison, Great Basin Corporation; and Larry Rea, Great Basin Corporation
Grant: 1 R01 AI116989-01

Denver Health and Hospital Authority
Project Name: Ultrarapid Culture-Independent Detection of High-Priority Carbapenem Resistant Enterobacteriaceae Directly from Blood
Principal Investigator: Connie Savor Price, M.D., Denver Health and Hospital Authority
Co-principal Investigator: Steve Metzger, Accelerate Diagnostics
Grant: 1 R01 AI116993-01

First Light Biosciences, Inc., Bedford, Massachusetts
Project Name: Rapid Detection of Pathogens and Antimicrobial Susceptibility Directly in Patient Samples
Principal Investigators: Don Straus, Ph.D., and Sadanand Gite, Ph.D., First Light Biosciences, Inc.
Grant: 1 R01 AI117058-01

GeneFluidics, Inc., Irwindale, California
Project Name: A Fully Integrated CentriFluidic System for Direct Bloodstream Infection PID/AST
Principal Investigator: Vincent Gau, Ph.D., GeneFluidics
Grant: 1 R01 AI117059-01

Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
Project Name: A Droplet-Based Single Cell Platform for Pathogen Identification and AST
Principal Investigator: Tza-Huei (Jeff) Wang, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
Co-principal Investigator: Joseph C. Liao, M.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
Grant: 1 R01 AI117032-01

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Project Name: RNA-Based Diagnostics for Rapid Pathogen Identification and Drug Resistance
Principal Investigator: Deborah T. Hung, M.D., Ph.D., the Broad Institute
Grant: 1 R01 AI117043-01

University of California, Berkeley
Project Name: Consortium for Drug-Resistant Gram-Negative Pathogen Detection
Principal Investigators: Lee W. Riley, M.D., Luke P. Lee, Ph.D., and Niren Murthy, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Grant: 1 R01 AI117064-01

University of California, Irvine
Project Name: Integrated Comprehensive Droplet Digital Detection (IC 3D) System for Rapid Detection of Bacteria and Antimicrobial Resistance
Principal Investigator: Weian Zhao, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine
Grant: 1 R01 AI117061-01

NIAID conducts and supports research — at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide — to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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