Symcel partners with Karolinska Institutet to validate calScreener in antimicrobial susceptibility testing

Symcel – the company behind the revolutionary cell-based assay tool for real-time cell metabolism measurements, calScreener – has partnered with the Karolinska Institutet in a Horizon 2020 funded project. The collaboration will see Symcel’s calScreener technology evaluated as an improved method to test for combinations of antibiotics against extensively drug resistant bacteria in sepsis patients. Associate Professor Christian Giske, Chief Physician in Bacteriology at the Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden, and Chairman of EUCAST, the body which sets the guidelines for antimicrobial susceptibility testing, takes the helm as the project’s academic lead. Professor Giske is tasked with evaluating whether calScreener provides a reliable reference point for clinical microbiologists to determine whether an antibiotic is effective in killing multi-resistant bacteria.
“Early results from our initial tests on Symcel’s technology, carried out in our research laboratories, showed that calScreener has great promise for use in clinical laboratories and for addressing key challenges in antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Antimicrobial resistance is increasing rapidly and can cause infections that are extremely difficult to treat – sometimes not even a single antimicrobial has remaining activity against such pathogens. Customized diagnostics solutions with rapid and accurate quantitative measurements are essential, particularly ones that have the capability to test several antimicrobials simultaneously – accurately predicting the effects of combination therapy” commented Professor Giske.
The calScreener method is well positioned for combination testing due to its total metabolic response in real-time, very high sensitivity and no limit to the number of antimicrobials that the technology can test at once. Combination therapies have emerged as a major new drug development strategy for combating antimicrobial resistance – treating infections with sets of drugs rather than individual ones. This growing trend has been fuelled by the increasing prevalence of infections caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria and exacerbated by the shortage of novel classes of antibiotics entering the clinic.
“The technology could also provide significant scope for reducing the spread of antimicrobial resistance. calScreener could optimize monotherapies to make certain that clinicians are not using sub efficient concentrations of an agent – ensuring instead that minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) are applied for the drug to have an inhibitive effect on the growth of microorganisms. Moreover, it has potential to accurately test multiple antimicrobials at once for combination therapies. For example, determining whether one agent antagonises another agent, or whether they synergise.”
The project involves a Symcel led consortium spanning 28 months – also comprising Hospital Universitario Ramón y Cajal, Careggi University Hospital, Erasmus MC, Rigshospitalet and IHE, as well as the Karolinska Institutet, and focused on specific geographies with large resistant problems such as Italy and Spain.

“We are very pleased that a clinical microbiologist of Professor Giske’s standing has taken on this important role in the project. Our novel technology was developed in part as a solution and reliable alternative to the conventional reference methods that are too slow and unsuited for use against the new threat of multi-resistant bacteria. Moreover, calScreener can aid antimicrobial stewardship as the ability to generate actual results and data on antimicrobial resistance at an early stage enables informed judgments to be made in good time on whether to switch or modify a treatment. We are confident that our technology will emerge as a validated and unique surrogate method that will enable clinicians to correctly determine which antibiotics really work against multi-resistant bacteria” commented Jesper Ericsson, CEO of Symcel.