Profile in Innovation: Samuel Yang, MD

In 2018, National Institutes of Health awarded Dr. Samuel Yang of Stanford’s Department of Emergency Medicine a $3.8 million grant for:

A "Culture" Shift: Integrated Bacterial Screening and Antibacterial Susceptibility Test on Microfluidic Digital Array for Bloodstream Infections (MPI: Wang, Yang)

The five-year precision health study will explore utilizing single cell microfluidic devices for rapid diagnosis of bloodstream infections, with the potential benefits of improving antibiotic stewardship and patient outcomes.

Yang, associate professor of emergency medicine, aims to develop a rapid and lower-cost method of testing and diagnosis of infections, that would in turn, inform targeted treatments. The study will include broad bacterial detection, species identification, and antibiotic susceptibility profiling.

Time is in short supply when diagnosing bacterial infection, particularly once the infection enters the blood stream. Each hour delay in starting treatment for septicemia can mean a 10% increase in mortality. Standard diagnosis relies on a blood test that can take days to complete. As a preventative measure, emergency physicians often start broad spectrum antibiotics, only to find days later that the culture was negative. Antibiotic misuses also promote emergence of multi-drug resistant bacteria.

“The goal is to shrink diagnosis window significantly, say from three days to three hours.” Yang explained. “We are exploring the detection and characterization of pathogens at the unprecedented single-cell level with extreme sensitivity, precision, and speed.”

Yang aims to develop a rapid test with high accuracy that builds on recent advances in molecular microbiology, microfluidics, computer science, and optics – all of which will be integrated into the testing platform. The platform will also be designed with an eye toward expanding application to additional diseases, disciplines, and industries, such as oncology, environmental monitoring, and agriculture.

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