The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health has awarded Chosen Diagnostics, a spin-out company, a US$299,641 Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer award for the development and commercialisation of a non-invasive diagnostic biomarker test for necrotising enterocolitis.
Based on an LSU Health New Orleans research breakthrough, the diagnostic biomarker test was invented by Dr Sunyoung Kim, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. The principal investigator for the grant award is Dr Rebecca Buckley, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.
According to the National Institutes of Health, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a life-threatening illness almost exclusively affecting neonates and has a mortality rate as high as 50%. Inflammation of the intestine leads to bacterial invasion causing cellular damage and cell death, which causes necrosis of the colon and intestine. As NEC progresses, it can lead to intestinal perforation, causing peritonitis, sepsis and death. To date, no clinical test has been established as the gold standard to diagnose NEC. X-rays are now used to diagnose advanced disease, but their sensitivity can be as low as 44%.
This gut disease is one of great concern in Louisiana, as it has one of the highest rates of premature birth in the country. NEC disproportionately affects African American infants, and in Louisiana, the preterm birth rate among black women is higher than the rate among all other women.
"We are grateful for the collaboration between LSU Health New Orleans schools of Medicine and Public Health, and the hospitals in the New Orleans area," said Kim. "Being able to conduct one of the largest prospective clinical studies of premature infants yet, this partnership lays the foundation for solutions to help alleviate this devastating gut disease of these most vulnerable babies."