Belgian start-up brings nanopore sequencing insight to veterinary pathogen testing Featured07 Apr 2022 - Animal Health | Headline AnalysisCompanion Animals, Bovine, Porcine, Poultry

19 Apr 2022

PathoSense aims to develop a fully automated version of its system for detecting infectious diseases in animals.

The Ghent-based business was founded in 2020 as a spin-off from the local university. It has built a platform for detecting multiple infectious diseases in one sample – technology it believes not only speeds up the time to results but can also provide genetic information for deeper understanding of virus variants. This approach is based on a sequencing platform developed by UK company Oxford Nanopore Technologies.


PathoSense’s co-founder Sebastiaan Theuns told S&P Global Animal Health: “We have developed a complete sample-to-interpretation diagnostic platform for infectious diseases in veterinary medicine. With a typical diagnostic assay, we always have to make a prior selection of what we want to test for – it might be one virus or one bacteria. If you pick the wrong things, you will get a negative result because you might be looking for the wrong pathogens. We use third-generation sequencing – nanopore sequencing. By analyzing the genetic codes of each virus and bacteria, we can decipher what is inside a sample without having to make a prior selection. We can screen all viruses and bacteria that are present, and it allows us to discover novelties.”


The firm has particular expertise in testing for the swine sector – an area impacted by many complex diseases involving multiple viruses and bacteria. However, it is also moving into more testing for cattle, poultry and companion animals.


The company commercialized its platform soon after it became an independent business. Clients receive a sampling kit that helps them collect and purify samples. The samples are then registered in the PathoSense app and users receive results in a semi-quantitative manner with interpretation. The company’s customers are not only veterinary clinics but also animal health businesses, diagnostic labs and academia. Dr Theuns said animal health firms use the company’s analysis from its growing bank of data to support their vaccine strategies.


Currently, PathoSense is receiving samples from vet clinics in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. It aims to expand its geographic horizons and ramp up revenues by introducing a new version of its technology.


“We want to develop a scalable platform that is automated and can be implemented in partner labs,” Dr Theuns explained. “This would be connected using the cloud – allowing analysis in a standardized way.”


This approach would enable the company to collaborate more freely with diagnostic labs around the world. It would also enable PathoSense to use its centralized information bank to allow clients to analyze infections and outbreaks through a pathogen dashboard.


Speaking at the recent Animal Health, Nutrition & Technology Innovation Europe conference, Dr Theuns said the start-up aims to finalize its automation project before the end of the year. In 2023, the plan is to scale up its new platform.