Bristol Startup Applying the Power of Quantum Information Science to Target Bacterial Diagnostic Cure

Since the dawn of time, diseases have been with us. Doesn’t matter the kind: viral or bacterial, the germs don’t discriminate.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Plague

In the history of the world, bacterial infections have ravaged humanity like wars or genocides couldn’t. The Plague of Athens of 430 BC is the first that comes to mind. In all, it is estimated between 75,000 and 100,000 people perished, a huge number considering the population of Athens at the time was around 400,000, which means a quarter of the citizens succumbed to the pathogenic bacterium Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi.

More than a millennium and a half later, during the Middle Ages, the Black Death — carried by rat fleas living on black rats — caused utter chaos around the world. 100 million people are said to have perished from the devilish claws of the bacterium Yersinia pestis.

These bacterial diseases — though some scientists are now saying the Athen’s debacle was caused by Ebola, a viral disease — changed the way people lived for generations.

The current Covid-19 pandemic, though viral in nature, just goes to show — like the historical examples mentioned — how much devastation and economic meltdown diseases can cause. That is why governments, NGOs, corporations, and startups alike are doing their utmost to find a vaccine or cure for it.

It could be a long time. Maybe never. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

In all this, technology has a big role to play. The hard sciences, represented by the shock troops of AI and ML, will need to get their act together if they are to find a solution.

Yet, they may not even be needed if quantum information sciences and nanotechnology have any say in it.

The very small kicking the very big problems aside.

Already we can see dozens of startups in the pharmaceutical industry with their own unique solution using the power of qubits.

Rahko from the UK. California-based ApexQubit. Pharmacelera from Spain. These are just three that employ the magic of quantum mechanics for drug discovery solutions.

FluoretiQ, a startup founded in 2016 in the coastal city of Bristol in the UK, believes it’s on the path of revolutionizing bacterial diagnostics.

‘Fighting Antimicrobial Resistance with Rapid POC diagnostics’

— FluoretiQ

FluoretiQ

The startup’s secret weapon is its diagnostics platform called NANOPLEX™. The platform uses receptor mediating sensing to quickly identify bacterial infections. It does, according to FluoretiQ’s website, ‘address[…] the £1.1 Billion cost of using broad-spectrum antibiotics as a placeholder for accurate diagnosis and prescription.’

FluoretiQ promises its platform will do three special things by

Saving Time:

Today’s tools for the identification of bacterial infection can often leave patients waiting days, sometimes weeks for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Delays in effective identification of infection lead to multiple GP visits, long-term antibiotic use, hospitalization and in some cases death.

Saving Money:

New solutions for fast, accurate bacterial diagnosis are urgently required to prevent the continued rise of Antimicrobial resistance and preserve the efficacy of existing antibiotics.

And the last, which is for those who don’t have a misanthropic bone in their skeletal frame:

Saving Lives:

Pioneering across the disciplines of Nanotechnology, Microbiology and Glycan Chemistry — FluoretiQ is designing simple and effective bacterial detection systems for rapid diagnosis of infection.

Responsible for all these revelations is the founding team, made up of CEO Neciah Dorh, CTO Josephine Dorh and Martin Cryan, FluoretiQ’s scientific advisor.

CEO Neciah Dorh is a former Enterprise Fellow at the Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre. With a Ph.D. in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Bristol, he is currently a member of the Department of International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur program while being included as an Insider Magazine’s 2019 42 under 42 upcoming business leaders list. He has also been a TEDx Bristol keynote speaker.

Josephine Dorh is CTO and the co-inventor of FluoretiQ’s proprietary fluorometer system. Like the CEO, she’s a graduate in electrical and electronic engineering from the University of Bristol and an Insider Magazine 2019 Insider 42 under 42 alumna.

Martin Cryan, however, might hold the key to the startup’s onward motion. A professor of applied electromagnetics at the University of Bristol, he has three decades of experience in electronic and photonic device development and research.

The south-west of England has garnered some headlines of late in the QC world.

The University of Bristol has been a hotbed of British quantum computing activity for quite a while now. PsiQuantum, which raised one of the largest private investments in QC in recent years valued at $215M involving nearly a dozen VCs, is a prime example.

But the story doesn’t end happily, unfortunately — and this was before the announcement of the investment — the PsiQuantum team moved to Silicon Valley, all hush-hush.

Is this a sign of things to come? Does the UK have enough money and spirit to hold onto its QC talent?

Let’s hope the guys at FluoretiQ feel the UK, with the Brexit final deal just a few precious months away, feel the country can offer them the best chance to build their brand.