Across the world, concern is growing over the fact that many infections are becoming more difficult to treat with antibiotics. Left unchecked, we are at risk of losing our ability to manage infections and even minor wounds or surgery may prove life-threatening. For 80 years antibiotics have kept us safe from bacterial infections, but their protective capacity is under attack from increasing resistance of bacteria to our current range of available drugs. Slowing this growth in resistance will be helped by a more targeted use of antibiotics, and doctors need a rapid way to decide whether an antibiotic is necessary, and if so, which antibiotic will be effective.
Vitamica was set up to address the need for a rapid method to determine which antibiotic will successfully treat an infection. This process is called ‘antimicrobial susceptibility testing’ (AST) and currently takes 2-3 days in a hospital laboratory. Our aim is to reduce the time to 1-2 hours and to allow testing to be carried out in surgeries, clinics, urgent care centres, and nursing homes. We want to help doctors prescribe an effective antibiotic right from the outset of treatment; this is better for the patient, the health service and the global population as a whole.
The idea behind the company came from research within the School of Physics at the University of Bristol and was stimulated by collaboration between specialists in physics and microbiology. These collaborations grew to include diagnostic partners, and the company was established in early 2018.
Research into rapid AST is taking place around the world because of the global nature of the antibiotic crisis. We believe our approach has a novelty and a simplicity that will prove decisive in the search for a truly rapid test method – we focus on measuring the internal ‘pulse’ of living bacteria and how this is affected by antibiotics. The infrastructure around Bristol for collaborating and exploring new ideas is vital for innovation, and we will continue to tap into the diverse range of skills to support our technical developments – whether it is access to patient samples, artificial intelligence or prototyping.
Even though Vitamica is in its early stages, we are firmly embedded in the Bristol technology and innovation community. This, in turn, leads to the regional and national awareness that is so important for new companies. The support available fuels our confidence in raising investment for further development towards creating a world-beating medical diagnostic tool that will safeguard antibiotics for future generations.