BioBuzz by Workforce Genetics
As cases of COVID-19 BA.5 subvariants have increased, so has the use of rapid home tests. Vacationers use them to assess whether they will actually be able to take that international trip they’ve been planning for months. Others use them as a pre-check before getting together with friends and family, especially if they are around immunocompromised people.
While rapid COVID tests have been an invaluable tool in helping people regain some sense of normalcy, infectious disease experts and healthcare professionals have warned that a negative rapid test is not necessarily a ticket to death. However, false negatives are more common than you might think. , especially if you are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms at the time of the test.
And while molecular-based PCR testing is the superior method, it’s not practical to go to the clinic and wait for the results when you’ve booked a flight to Hawaii for which you can’t get a refund.
Senzo Health strives to change COVID-19 testing with its Amplified Lateral Flow (ALF) COVID-19 Antigen Test, which combines the sensitivity and specificity of molecular testing with the convenience of point-of-care diagnosis. , with results in less than 10 minutes.
The process is the same as other rapid tests, with an additional step where the user adds a specialized enzyme solution. The reagent works to amplify the analyte signal without amplifying other debris and noise that could cause a false positive.
Recently, the company announced a $2 million equity funding round led by BioAdvance, a Philadelphia-based venture capital firm, which will help the team commercialize its ALF COVID-19 antigen test. Wellness Coaches, a national provider of health and wellness services that includes point-of-care diagnostics, also participated in the round and will play a vital role in helping to connect the company with consumers, decision-makers and doctors.
In an interview with BioBuzz, Senzo CEO Jeremy Stackawitz noted that the stage was set for the company’s COVID test to enter the clinic in September. If all goes well, Senzo plans to file an EUA by the end of the year and launch it in the market in the first quarter of 2023.
While several other COVID tests are already on the market, Jeremy anticipates that Senzo’s COVID tests will fill an important gap by providing affordable, PCR-like point-of-care diagnostics that can be performed easily from the comfort of their home. And with another school year beginning again, the need for reliable COVID testing is unlikely to diminish anytime soon.
Big plans beyond COVID
While COVID has certainly been a priority for over 2.5 years, we cannot forget that there are many other infectious diseases for which a diagnosis would be extremely helpful. In addition to COVID, Senzo also uses its lateral flow diagnostic platform for Influenza A/B, RSV, Tuberculosis, HIV, and Hepatitis C, to name a few.
“Right now, the pipeline for many illnesses is to see your doctor and describe your symptoms. The doctor can prescribe any medicine he thinks strength work, or they might send you to an outside lab to give a sample, like a blood draw,” Jeremy said. “You give your sample and wait a few days for a nurse to call you with the results. This is time consuming and can be very inconvenient, as well as expensive.
“COVID-19 has changed the way people think about diagnostics – instead of going to central labs, can we apply what we’ve learned to be able to test for other infectious diseases just as easily?” It’s not a new concept, but for non-COVID diseases, it’s been difficult to create point-of-care tests that can meet FDA standards,” added Jeremy.
With COVID opening the door, the company says it is well positioned to quickly adapt its technology to other indications. The opportunities are immense and could include:
- Determine if your infection is viral or bacterial, which informs healthcare professionals whether or not to prescribe antibiotics. This mitigates the increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria that emerge due to blind prescribing of antibiotics for viral infection.
- Diagnose the flu early enough so that drugs such as Tamiflu® can be effective.
- Detect diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV in low-resource areas and countries where central laboratory testing is impractical or non-existent.
- Being able to quickly screen new patients hospitalized for diseases such as MRSA and C.diff, which can be particularly devastating if they spread to older patients or immunocompromised people.
- Testing for sexually transmitted infections in the privacy of one’s home, alleviating feelings of embarrassment and hesitancy to get tested in a more public setting.
- Diagnose various diseases in pets and farm animals.
Growing Roots in Philadelphia
Currently most of the Senzo team is based in London, UK. And while Jeremy enjoys his trips across the pond, he said he’s looking forward to building the Philadelphia team.
“I lived in the Philadelphia area for many years – I got my graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and never left. It’s a great home not only for big pharma, but also for many cutting-edge research and startups. It’s a wonderful community with a fantastic talent pool,” he said.
And don’t get me wrong – this isn’t Jeremy’s first rodeo with the growth of an international business to have a presence in the United States. Prior to becoming CEO of Senzo, he worked at Scotland-based Quotient and was instrumental in growing the business from a team of 30 to over 500, with most talent on the corporate side. ‘State.
As Senzo plans to seek additional capital in the first half of 2023, the team will also be looking to recruit BD, commercial, customer service and administrative staff as a top priority, with the option to also bring in regulatory and corporate professionals. scientists. .
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Sarah Ellinwood is the editor of BioBuzz. A scientist by training and a science communicator at heart, Sarah specializes in understanding, engaging and exciting complex concepts. She got her doctorate. in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a specialization in Infectious Disease Immunology from the University of Maryland and is passionate about all things scicomm, peer mentorship, and women in STEM.