Pictured above: SpeeDx founders, from left: Alison Todd and Elisa Mokany at the SpeeDx offices in Sydney.
1. What is the innovation?
SpeeDx is a leader in high performance and reliable real-time PCR diagnostic testing, with the patented PlexPCR® technology that powers the product portfolio. PlexPCR® combines the PlexPrime® and PlexZyme® technologies to enable simultaneous detection of multiple genetic variants in a pool of nucleic acid sequences or multiplex reaction (the analysis of several targets in a single real-time PCR), with high sensitivity and specificity. PlexPrime® offers a novel method for nucleic acid amplification that creates amplicons (copies of genetic codes) which are distinctly different from the parent sequence. This is different to traditional primer technology and results in production of many unique amplicons to reduce primer competition. PlexZyme® enzymes are catalytic DNA complexes which assemble into a complete functional enzyme only in the presence of compatible amplicons and cleave universal probes for detection. The bi-specificity of PlexZyme® activity minimises the chance of false positive signals, and the use of universal probes allow for robust and consistent reaction performance.
2. What benefits does the innovation bring?
The application of PlexZyme® and PlexPrime® technology revolutionizes real-time PCR diagnostic testing by enabling the analysis of multiple targets simultaneously, thereby increasing the amount of information per specimen and further allowing internal controls to be built in. An example of PlexPrime®/PlexZyme® in multiplex real-time PCR is the successful SpeeDx product ResistancePlus® MG, which detects the bacteria Mycoplasma genitalium (Mgen) and mutations associated with antimicrobial resistance. Mgen is a recognised sexually transmitted disease (STI) with clinical presentation similar to that of Chlamydia and only detectable by molecular methods. The bacteria has a rapid rate of mutation, resulting in an alarming increase in antimicrobial resistance over relatively short periods of time, making Mgen an emerging STI superbug. ResistancePlus® MG addresses this issue by testing for the presence of the bacteria Mgen, as well as five macrolide resistance markers. Clinical data showed a significant increase in overall cure rate up to 92% when using a treatment algorithm that includes the ResistancePlus® MG test to guide antibiotic choice, compared to previous cure rates of below 67%.
3. What commercial success and/or benefit to society has it achieved?
Antibiotic resistance in STIs is a growing public health issue. STIs have the potential to become the first incurable bacterial infections since the introduction of antibiotics. Thus, diagnostic tests that detect bacterial infection as well as genetic markers for antibiotic resistance in a single test, such as ResistancePlus® MG, will be crucial in addressing this looming issue by enabling resistance guided therapy. Treating infectious diseases based on the presence of resistance mutations will improve patient treatment outcomes, reduce re-admission and healthcare costs, minimise the spread of antibiotic resistant infections and maintain the efficacy of existing antibiotics (antibiotic stewardship).
4. What lessons learnt can you share?
- Learn to talk about your technology in simple direct manner that anyone can understand.
- Surround yourself with talented people so you can all grow together.
- Network – in same and different fields with investors and investees alike.
- Get a good mentor.
- Always enjoy what you do so you never realise the tough times until you are through them and then you can look back and appreciate the work you did to get through it.
5. How many new jobs has this innovation created?
SpeeDx has always had a strong innovative R&D focus and supporting women in science. SpeeDx started with 4 scientists and 75% women. Now we are over 47 staff globally maintaining a rate of 72% employment of women.