NEW YORK – Seattle-based startup Phase Genomics announced Tuesday it has received a two-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support the development of a rapid antimicrobial resistance tracking kit based on the firm's proprietary high-throughput chromatin conformation, or Hi-C, proximity ligation technology.
The Phase II Small Business Innovation Research funds were awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The funding will support the development of a low-cost platform to detect antimicrobial resistance elements in microbial communities without the need for bacterial culture.
Specifically, the firm said in a statement that it intends to develop a kit to capture AMR elements, as well as a user-friendly web portal to help identify hosts and analyze transmission of elements between bacteria. These analyses will be performed directly from complex communities of microbes using Hi-C.
The Hi-C method fills an unmet technological need, the company noted, since approaches using shotgun metagenomics, PCR, or long-read sequencing to detect resistance-conferring elements in microbial communities struggle to also identify which specific host is carrying the element.
"Our affordable and fast AMR tracking kit will build upon Phase Genomics' extensive expertise with techniques and will provide scientists with a new dimension of data to help solve the growing antibiotic resistance crisis," said Phase Genomics Founder and CEO Ivan Liachko.
The firm also aims to combine target enrichment and proximity ligation methods to reduce sequencing costs associated with metagenomic deconvolution, according to the funding abstract.
A preliminary study in 2017 showed the Hi-C technology could be used to deconvolute microbial genomes from complex metagenomic samples. Phase Genomics was granted $1.5 million from NIAD in 2018 for initial development of its microbiome analysis kit, and it was awarded $200,000 last year from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a computational platform to process microbiome samples.