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Galaxy Diagnostics plans to fight bug borne bacteria

May 26th, 2009

By Allan Maurer
RALEIGH, NC—A new company plans to develop a diagnostic test for the hard-to-detect Bartonella bacteria that can cause human infections from tick bites or contact with pet cats. Galaxy Diagnostics has raised $40,000 of $100,000 in debt funding targeted and is in the process of setting up a new commercial laboratory.

Galaxy CEO Chris Kelly tells TechJournal South the money raised is a partly a loan from the NC Biotech Center months ago and the company is not actively raising money right now.

Kelly says the company is staying under the radar right now, but that its technology can recognize bacteria that no one else can.

The company revealed the debt funding in a filing with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing states the money is from three investors.

Kelly is a serial entrepreneur on his fourth startup. Previously he founded Xlibris Corp., the first on-demand book publisher that became a division of Random House Publishing. He also led Ribonomics, a Duke University biotech spinout.

The company’s technology is based on the proprietary intellectual property from the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University.

According to the company’s Web site, its diagnostic for Bartonella involves the use of a patented growth media combined with state-of-the-art molecular-based bacterial DNA detection. The results are highly accurate and significantly more sensitive than any other available method for detecting infection by Bartonella, the company says.

Galaxy’s Chief Scientific Officer, Ed Breitschwerdt, a doctor of veterinary medicine and professor at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is an internationally recognized leader in the area of Bartonella research, diagnosis, and treatment.

In an earlier interview, Dr. Breitschwerdt told the Raleigh News & Observer that he believes Bartonella infections “are a silent epidemic.” Many of his own animal patients, cats, dogs, rabbits, cows and other animals, harbor the bacteria, which they picked up from insect bites.

The bacteria are the cause of cat scratch disease, among other ailments. It can be transmitted by infected fleas, lice, sandflies and possibly ticks, but it is difficult to detect in human blood. It can be treated with antibiotics if properly diagnosed.

The symptoms caused by the bacteria, fatigue, headaches, weakness, can easily be misdiagnosed as any number of other diseases, including MS.
Although the bacteria can be found fairly easily in cats, which can have high levels of Bartonella, it requires a more advanced diagnostic test to find it in humans. Galaxy plans to develop that advanced diagnostic.

Galaxy co-founders include Amanda B. Elam, PhD, president, who has had experience with several startups, and Ricardo Maggi, PhD, professor of Medical Microbiology at the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State.

Dr. Maggi played an integral role in developing the new diagnostic technology and is responsible for transitioning Bartonella testing from the NC State Vector Borne Disease Diagnostics lab to the Galaxy Lab, according to the company.


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