Prof. Sunghoon Kwon, QuantaMatrix “Time is key to sepsis treatment… Test time shortened to 1/10” (The Korea Economic Daily, 2020.07.30.)

2020-11-03l Hit 237

Exporting products to eight countries including France and England.
Aim for September KOSDAQ IPO

“One sepsis patient can be saved for every 20 panels produced by QuantaMatrix. We will target markets in advanced countries with innovative products that differ from the conventional microbial diagnostic products.”

Sunghoon Kwon, CEO of QuantaMatrix (photo), explained the necessity of a rapid antimicrobial susceptibility test in the treatment of sepsis. QuantaMatrix is a microbial diagnostic technology development business founded in 2010 by CEO Kwon, a professor of ECE, College of Engineering, SNU. It has been recognized for its achievements by supplying microbial diagnostic products to eight countries in Europe, the home base of the microbial diagnostics market. The goal is to be listed on KOSDAQ in September.

Establishment triggered by observing the performance of the Korean display business

Sepsis is a response that causes inflammation throughout the body as bacteria incubated in the blood spreads. Failure to respond in time leads to excessive immune system reactions to stop the bacterial infection, leading to death from shock. The mortality rate reaches 30% within 30 days of infection. According to a study at the University of Washington, U.S.A., approximately 49 million people worldwide are diagnosed with sepsis each year, of which 11 million die. As the proliferation of microorganisms such as bacteria can to lead to death within a week, the key to sepsis treatment is the quick injection of antibiotics.

However, with the advent of antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as super bacteria, there are now incidents where the existing antibiotics do not work. The resistance rate to Vancomycin, a type of antibiotics often used for bacterial infection, has risen to 60%. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicts that by 2050, there will be more deaths from antibiotic-resistant bacteria than those from cancer. Quickly finding the right antibiotic for the bacteria has now become the crux to reducing sepsis deaths.

QuantaMatrix reduced the time for antimicrobial susceptibility tests conducted after sepsis diagnosis to a tenth of the previous test time. The antimicrobial susceptibility test determines how well the antibiotics destroys the bacteria. The gist of the test is to find the antimicrobial agent to which a specific bacterium reacts sensitively.

In the year 2000, when CEO Kwon was studying in the United States, he conceived the idea of presenting innovational products that incorporate Korean engineering technology in other fields as he observed how Korean display products were being recognized in the U.S. for their innovation. CEO Kwon, after returning to Korea, presented a paper on a technique to shorten the antimicrobial susceptibility test time by applying a microfluid control technology used in semiconductor processing in a SNU research lab. At the time, this only reduce the test time by 10 hours, from the previous 60 hours to 50 hours.

Shortened test time from 60 hours to 6 hours

Conventionally, the antimicrobial susceptibility test consists of three culture stages. First, one checks whether the collected blood contains the bacteria and then increases the number of bacteria. Next, in a culture purification process, the bacteria cultured in the blood are separated and cultured. Finally, the cultured bacteria are injected in a liquid medium mixed with an antibacterial agent, followed by an antimicrobial susceptibility test. Each stage requires about 20 hours for completion. It takes at least three days for a sepsis patient to get a prescription for the right antibiotics.

QuantaMatrix’s product for antimicrobial susceptibility testing, ‘dRAST’, has no culture purification process. By conducting the antimicrobial susceptibility test directly on the bacteria cultured in the blood, the entire testing time was shortened to 6~7 hours. Through the dRAST, it is possible to photograph the degree of bacterial proliferation over time according to each antimicrobial agent. Thus, it checks to which antibacterial agent the bacteria respond the most within a short time frame. CEO Kwon applied microfluidic technology used in semiconductor processing to develop the ‘microfluidic agarose channel’ technology, where bacterium is physically fixed upon a glass particle thinner than a hair. CEO Kwon emphasized, “If various proteins, antibodies, and DNA segments are attached on the microscopic glass particles, you can check which antibiotics the bacteria react to with a single blood test.” The test procedures are automated, leaving no risk or results varying depending on the skill of the tester.

“Will present product for immediate testing”

QuantaMatrix is already exporting its products to Europe. CEO Kwon said, “We have already installed dRAST for major hospitals in eight European countries including France and the UK. It is encouraging to elicit a positive response in Europe, which produced renowned scholars in microorganism research including Fleming and Pasteur.”

CEO Kwon has also started developing follow-up products. The company has completed the development of ‘QDST’, an equipment that tests the susceptibility of anti-tuberculosis agents to Mycobacterium tuberculosis by applying microfluidic agarose channel technology. Research for a product that allows the elimination of the blood culture process is also in process. CEO Kwon emphasized, “If we could figure out the bacteria type immediately after collecting blood, the test time could be shortened to less than two hours.”

Translated by: Jee Hyun Lee, English Editor of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,