Picodya has developed a scalable solution that is being used by the NIH to find the so-called Disease X and stop the next pandemic in its tracks.
By Chris Wolski
No longer the stuff of apocalyptic films or theoretical tabletop scenarios, planning for the next pandemic is a stark reality. With the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in 2020, health care professionals were initially on their back foot; unprepared to test or treat the unknown disease.
While the COVID pandemic had unprecedented consequences in terms of the human, economic, and cultural costs, lessons have been learned, and active steps are being taken to avoid or at least minimize the effects of a future pandemic caused by an unknown Disease X.
Picodya’s B-Matrix In Vitro Diagnostics Platform was recently deployed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide large-scale, real-time disease surveillance to identify Disease X or a known pathogenic outbreak before it can gain traction.
The NIH and its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) established PREMISE (Pandemic REsponse REpository through Microbial and Immune Surveillance and Epidemiology) in 2021 to prepare for pandemic outbreaks. PREMISE partnered with Picodya during initial phases of development to install the B-Matrix technology at NIAID Vaccine Research Center’s (VRC) laboratories to detect reactivity to multiple potential pandemic threats. The program was presented by Daniel Douek, MD, PhD, to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in September 2021, according to a company press release.
The multiplex point-of-care test performs both molecular and antigen testing on up to 16 biomarkers, and can use a variety of bodily fluids as samples.
“The advantage of the platform is that it is open and flexible, being easy to implement,” explains Uri Keler, MD, head of product for the Israel-based Picodya. “Scaling the test is very easy. And all of the platforms use the same disposables.”
Each cartridge can process about four tests per hour, and to scale all it requires is adding another cartridge.
Because of the ease of use and scaling capabilities, Keler notes that there could be multiple testing points that could also speed the identification and cause of a future Disease X or known pathogenic outbreak, limiting its potential effect.
Identifying a Treatment
It’s not just a testing edge, but a means to identify a treatment that gives the B-Matrix another advantage, says Keler.
“The fact that you can screen and identify many biomarkers will help you identify vaccine candidates,” he says.
The B-Matrix platform’s flexibility is also helpful in its potential for serologic surveillance. It can provide both antigen and molecular testing on the same platform.
More Than Disease X
While the B-Matrix is being used in both the U.S. and Israel for disease surveillance, Keler notes that it was originally designed for and is still intended as a point-of-care test for the clinical market.
The company has submitted the B-Matrix to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval. Keler hopes that is will be commercially available to labs in a year and half. It is being initially evaluated for use in diagnosing, COVID, influenza, and STIs. According to a company press release, the B-Matrix diagnostic system is also currently being adopted by global research facilities to help streamline timelines and reduce costs.
“We plan to constantly expand the test,” says Keler.
According to the company, it has conducted a feasibility analysis for the B-Matrix platform showing the system is suitable for performing dozens of immunoassays and molecular tests, including COVID-19, influenza, HBV, EBV, prostate cancer and cardiologic markers.
Chris Wolski is chief editor of CLP.