Advanced Animal Diagnostics Garners $7M for COVID-19 Applications
Advanced Animal Diagnostics, a Morrisville diagnostics and data systems company, has $7 million more to explore the human health applications for its technology that was originally focused only on animal health.
The funding was led by Mountain Group Partners with new investors, Alexandria Venture Investments and Herbert Group Ltd. The company received additional funding from Burlington-based LabCorp, Durham-based Intersouth Partners, and Wallace-based Murphy Family Ventures.
“Intersouth was our first institutional investor,” says Joy Parr Drach, President and CEO of AAD. This new investment came from reserve funds, since the company ceased first-time investments in 2017. “Then LabCorp and Murphy Family Ventures, all from North Carolina.
“They have all been incredibly helpful. North Carolina is fortunate to have their experience and wisdom in our ecosystem.”
AAD’s QScout platform profiles a cow’s immune system in less than a minute. Its first product, QScout MLD, measures the milk leukocyte differential, or white blood cell count, in dairy cows to detect subclinical mastitis. This infectious disease is prominent among cattle, impacting the cow’s comfort, the quality of her milk and the producer’s profits. QScout BLD measures blood leukocyte differential, using only a drop of blood, to provide targeted antibiotic usage to each cow. The company’s motto reads, “treat the cow, not the herd.”
The simple, portable, cost-effective tests have been active for years, helping farmers maintain the health of their herds. Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, the company pivoted its disease detection technology to measure the severity of COVID-19 in humans.
Mastitis, like COVID-19, is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transferred from animals to humans. Both infectious diseases spread in similar ways, which opened a door for this animal health company.
“[QScout BLD] is the animal version and forerunner to QScout RLD,” which is the test used for humans, says Drach. “It’s the only system in human or animal medicine to quantitate an immature cell type that is a marker for human sepsis and predictor of mortality in cattle and people.” In other words, it measures how many cells, when matured, could contribute to the possibility of sepsis.
Using a single drop of blood, the QScout RLD test can predict the severity of COVID-19 in humans. Its applications extend past the pandemic, but it could measure white blood cell differential in patients with other contagious diseases.
“AAD is a great example of the ‘One Health’ perspective,” said Nandini Mendu, senior director of agriculture sector development for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. One Health is a collaborative effort among different disciplines of medicine, including human, veterinary, and environmental.
“AAD has been able to extend its platform technology of cow-side diagnostics for mastitis detection and treatment recommendation to patient-side diagnostics for COVID-19 detection,” Mendu says. “The company was initially aided in this endeavor with a $50,000 grant from the Wells Fargo-funded NREL-coordinated Innovation Incubator (IN2) program, in which NCBiotech is a channel partner. This new $7 million investment will enable AAD to grow the platform for both animal and human health. And it will allow the company to grow to its full potential.”
The funding will be allocated toward commercial expansion of the livestock tests and the 510(k) submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for human blood tests. The company plans to submit to the FDA this fall, says Drach. Over the next couple of months, AAD will be busy growing its team with C# software developers, an operations manager and a device engineer, preparing its technology for the next stage of growth.
By shifting its technology to treat COVID-19 patients and prepare for future infectious diseases, AAD is not only treating the individual, but ensuring the health of the herd.
Human or otherwise.