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Making Platelet Transfusions Safer

Photon Biosciences and S2 Media Partner to Reshape the Field of Bacterial Contamination Detection in Platelets for Transfusion

Spokane, WASH – May 20, 2020 – Bacterial contamination in platelet transfusion bags is currently considered the second most common cause of transfusion-related deaths in the United States, higher than the risk of viral infection. Two Spokane, Washington-based startups recently gained momentum in partnering to address this problem head on.

Through a newly awarded grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Photon Biosciences and S2 Media are developing an innovative, ultra-sensitive rapid test for detecting bacterial contamination in human platelet plasma.

Current lab protocols to prohibit bacterial growth, and existing technology to rapidly test for contamination, are cumbersome and suboptimal. The two companies will work together to leverage their technology and expertise to address these problems.

The NIH funding allows Photon Biosciences, which is currently affiliated with Washington State University (WSU) Health Sciences Spokane (WSU Spokane), to apply its patent-pending PBS® technology to detect bacterial contamination in platelet transfusion bags. They will partner with S2 Media, a women-owned company, to focus on improving the quality of media used in microbiology culture.

“This support will maintain the great momentum we’ve gathered over past years. We are delighted to partner with S2 Media on this project,” said Chandima Bandaranayaka, Photon Biosciences chief executive officer. “We believe that PBS technology will be a game changer in the area of fluorescent probes for imaging and detection of analytes with an accuracy not possible with alternative methods. It makes perfect sense for us to take the lead in areas like this where there is a growing need to introduce ultra-sensitive detection methods.”

Stephanie Bernards, S2 Media executive director, said, “Platelet contamination has been a long-standing public health concern, we are excited to work with PBS to develop a more sensitive test for bacterial contamination than what is currently on the market.”

According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 1,000-3,000 platelet units may be contaminated with bacteria. Transfusion-transmitted sepsis has been recognized and culture-confirmed in at least 1 of 100,000 recipients, and has led to immediate fatal outcomes in 1 in 500,000 recipients.

Platelets are at a higher risk of microbial contamination because of their collection and storage procedures. Making the situation worse, collected platelets must be stored between 20°C to 24°C due to their deactivation in low temperatures, which allows proliferation of microbial contaminants. The CDC also states that the actual risk of transfusion-associated sepsis is likely higher, as infections due to contaminated blood products are under-reported.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently recommends lengthy platelet/culture incubation (up to five days) to control the risk of bacterial contamination. Incubation methods must be performed at two intervals (on days one and three) during the five-day storage preceding transfusion. To compensate for the lengthy quality-control time, FDA guidance recommends using a rapid test to detect microbial contamination. So far, only two FDA-approved rapid tests are available and the detection limit of these two methods are suboptimal to enable early-stage contamination detection.

Photon Biosciences and S2 Media will use NIH funding to develop an ultra-sensitive detection technology for platelet contamination based on Photon Biosciences’ ultrasensitive, ultra-stable, genetically expressible luminescent bionanoparticle technology (PBS®). Photon Biosciences is a WSU spin-off company founded by two WSU professors, ChulHee Kang, PhD, and James Brozik, PhD. The professors initially helped to develop the innovative WSU-licensed PBS technology.
Glenn Prestwich, PhD, the WSU President’s distinguished professor at WSU Spokane, encouraged Photon Biosciences to move to Spokane to become affiliated with the health sciences campus and introduced the two companies.

Said Prestwich, “The S2 Media-Photon Biosciences connection is wonderful new partnership for our life science innovation ecosystem in Spokane. Excitingly, Photon Biosciences is also the founding member of the forthcoming Spinout Space in Spokane (sp3nw), a forthcoming regional hub for life sciences startup companies, seeking to translate new technologies into life-changing products for health care.”

In addition to WSU, Photon Biosciences also received generous support from Health Science & Services Authority (HSSA) of Spokane County and Greater Spokane Incorporated.
Said Susan Ashe, HSSA executive director, “HSSA is pleased to have helped move Photon Biosciences to Spokane and match NIH funding for its development of a non-photobleaching and non-photoblinking luminescent probe for disease detection and biomolecular imaging. We are gratified to see its progress toward commercialization.”

The six-month, $265,000 NIH grant was part of the highly competitive, public health service 2018-02 Omnibus Solicitation for Small Business Innovation Research, also supported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA.