Draper’s Promising IDAST Technology Provides Rapid Diagnosis of Bacterial Infections at the Point of Care

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A novel medical test for bacterial infection is capable of shortening the time to diagnosis from days to under an hour.

IDAST is a new technology developed by Draper that shows promise for helping doctors quickly and accurately diagnose potentially life-threatening infections and identify treatments at the point of car

“IDAST will equip physicians with the means to select effective medication and dosage amounts at the onset of treatment, potentially saving the lives of critically ill patients, while saving the healthcare system billions of dollars,” said Jason Holder at Draper.

Doctors have been resigned to waiting days or even a week for lab results before making a diagnosis of bacterial infection. Now, Draper’s IDAST™ technology promises to shorten the time-to-results to within an hour for some tests.

“Doctors should have access to data needed to diagnose the causative agents of potentially life-threatening infections and the most effective treatment for those infections,” said Jason Holder, Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Draper. “When doctors have to wait a week for lab culture results, it is a guessing game to prescribe the right antibiotics in the meantime if the patient’s condition can’t wait.”

Holder and his colleagues developed IDAST—Identification (ID) and Antimicrobial Susceptibility Test (AST)—to correct a problem common to prescribing antibiotics: doctors responding to a patient in need of immediate care have to rely on the outcomes of the broader patient population and are therefore forced to use broad-spectrum antibiotics rather than drugs with a more narrow spectrum—an option that would be afforded by rapid results from IDAST.

“IDAST will equip physicians with the means to select effective medication and dosage amounts at the onset of treatment, potentially saving the lives of critically ill patients, while saving the healthcare system billions of dollars,” Holder said. “An added benefit of more accurate antimicrobial therapies resulting from IDAST technology is the potential to combat the global rise in antibiotic resistance.”

IDAST uses a novel design featuring optical probes that can make a positive ID with only a handful of bacterial cells (so there is no time delay to grow enough cells from a patient through traditional sample culturing), and from that determine whether an antibiotic is having a lethal effect on them and at what drug concentration. IDAST technology has proven effective for all classes of antibiotics, thus enabling physicians to make evidence-based treatment decisions at the onset of therapy and at the point of care. Devices configured with the IDAST technology can impact the clinical process in hospitals, doctor’s offices and even pharmacies and other non-laboratory settings.

Draper is developing IDAST in several versions. The initial laboratory devices are based on standard lab equipment, and the point-of-care device currently under development requires microfluidics for automated sample processing.

The World Health Organization has called antibiotic resistance one of the greatest threats to human health worldwide. In calculating the impact on the U.S. health care system, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) said antibiotic resistant infections cost anywhere from $21 billion to $34 billion a year, and as many as eight million additional hospital days. In its recommendations on a solution, the IDSA said use of rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests, like IDAST, “would dramatically reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions” and “would enable more accurate, narrow spectrum antibiotics to be prescribed.”


At Draper, we believe exciting things happen when new capabilities are imagined and created. Whether formulating a concept and developing each component to achieve a field-ready prototype or combining existing technologies in new ways, Draper engineers apply multidisciplinary approaches that deliver new capabilities to customers. As a not-for-profit research and development company, Draper focuses on the design, development and deployment of advanced technological solutions for the world’s most challenging and important problems. We provide engineering solutions directly to government, industry and academia; work on teams as prime contractor or subcontractor; and participate as a collaborator in consortia. We provide unbiased assessments of technology or systems designed or recommended by other organizations—custom designed, as well as commercial-off-the-shelf.


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Dan Dent
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