Baltimore diagnostics company Novel Microdevices was awarded up to $13.8 million from CARB-X, a global, nonprofit partnership based out of Boston University that supports R&D, to address the emergence of bacteria that is resistant to treatment drugs.
The funding will hep Novel Microdevices develop its molecular test for sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia and gonorrhea. In the case of gonorrhea, treatment has become more difficult because the bacteria that causes the disease has developed resistance to antibiotics. Novel Microdevices’ test is being designed to test for those particular strains that are resistant to treatment, known as superbugs.
“Novel’s technology is in the early stages of development and, if successful, could be used world-wide to help health-care providers diagnose gonorrhea, including resistance markers, more rapidly, thus improving treatment decisions, and mitigating the devastating effects of these diseases,” said Erin Duffy, R&D chief of CARB-X, in a statement.
Novel Microdevices was founded by Andrea Pais and Rohan Pais, who are both siblings and engineers. They applied complimentary experience to develop a battery-powered system to test for infectious disease. It includes an instrument and cartridges that are inserted into the system with samples for testing. The system, called Novel Dx, then analyzes the genetic sequence of the sample to identify a pathogen or genetic mutation. With the platform technology, the cartridges can be developed for a variety of infectious diseases. It also has a test in development for SARS COV 2, which is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“The system is designed to be extremely easy to use and fully automated,” said CEO Andrea Pais. That means you don’t need to be a lab technician to use it. This opens up potential for use in doctor’s offices, or in lower-resourced settings in low- and middle-income countries around the world.
Based out of IMET’s Harbor Launch incubator inside Inner Harbor’s Columbus Center, the company has grown from four employees six months ago to more than 20 today. The company has opened a second office in the LaunchPort at City Garage in Port Covington, which is focused on supporting medical companies moving into the manufacturing phase. Its engineering team is now located at the manufacturing accelerator, while the bio-focused portion of the team is at IMET.
“We’re growing really fast and blessed that we have this funding that’s enabling us to develop our product at an accelerated pace, grow and get this product out to market as soon as we humanly can,” said Pais.
The funding award itself shows a path for growth outside of venture capital. CARB-X is providing non-dilutive funding, which means the nonprofit doesn’t take an equity stake. In turn, the funding will be distributed based on the company reaching certain milestones. Along the way, Novel Microdevices will also have access to science and technology experts on the CARB-X advisory board, and its network.
In this case, the funding is going to a woman-led company that has a particular focus on women’s health.
“I think we’re showing people that this is a field that women can pioneer and can excel at,” Pais said.