The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a grant to Akonni Biosystems to develop a fully automated nucleic acid isolation instrument, which has the potential to reduce hospital-acquired infections (HAI).

With the $280,784 grant, the company will initially use the sample preparation workstation to purify and isolate nucleic acid from gram-positive bacteria, including methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), streptococci and mycobacteria (such as tuberculosis), as well as from complex clinical matrices including blood and nasopharyngeal specimens.

MRSA and tuberculosis are among the most common HAIs or nosocomial infections, according to a Kalorama Information 2012 report.

Akonni Biosystems engineering director and project principal investigator Dr Christopher Cooney said the company has developed TruTip smart consumable, for sample preparation, specifically to ease bottlenecks in genetic testing and improve quality of life.

"We plan to integrate the underlying technology of our established TruTip extraction system with our MagVor mechanical cell lysis technology," Cooney said.

"This will bring a new level of automation efficiency and cost savings for sample preparation to research labs and eventually clinical laboratories around the world.

"This new platform will be compatible with a simple-to-use consumable kit and will be capable of purifying nucleic acid from 12 samples in less than 20 minutes, making it valuable to a broad range of molecular and hospital laboratories, including those operating in global health settings."

Maryland sixth district representative Congressman Roscoe Bartlett said the nucleic acid extraction platform from Akonni could reduce the time and costs required to identify, track, and eliminate dangerous infections from hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

"It has the potential to greatly aid efforts to prevent the millions of deaths annually around the world attributable to hospital-acquired infections," Bartlett said.

The nucleic acid isolation instrument is expected to be applicable for a range of moulds and spores in the future, according to the company.

Image: National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Research Centre in Bethesda, Maryland, US. Photo: Courtesy of NIH.