Biotech grows in Reno

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Biotech grows in Reno

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Kozel and DxDiscovery co-founder AuCoin are beginning to develop a biomarker for early diagnosis of invasive candidiasis, the fourth most common bloodstream infection among hospitalized patients in the United States.

A new biotechnology company has taken root in Reno. The startup, called DxDiscovery, has its origins in the laboratories of the University of Nevada's Medical School. The goal: to create rapid diagnostic tests that can detect certain common and fatal diseases for which no accurate tests currently exist. An example of that is invasive candidiasis. It's a kind of yeast infection and the fourth most common bloodstream infection among hospitalized patients in the United States.

Tom Kozel, who is one of the co-founders of the company, says 50 percent of the time the diagnostic test comes back negative, even though the infection is present.

"You would never know the infection was there. What happens many times in a hospital setting is that you'll have a patient, they are not well, they have a fever, and you don't know what it is. Clinicians have to carpet bomb the patient with every antibiotic because they don't know what the infection is."

And that's what DxDiscovery hopes to prevent by diagnosing the problem quicker. With a simple antibody test, which looks essentially like one you'd use to detect pregnancy, Kozel and co-founder David AuCoin say they may be able to save lives and the 4 billion dollars spent on combating this infection every year in the U.S.

DxDiscovery has just received more than half a million dollars from the National Institute of Health to further its research on this disease. In time, they hope to develop similar tests for other difficult to diagnose diseases. And as they grow, Kozel says they'll stay right here.

"Keep the intellectual property here. Keep the jobs here. Just to contribute and allow UNR students opportunities for training."

That approach is being welcomed by those trying to bring more industry to the region. Mike Kazmerski is CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

"Most startups fail. There are a lot of different reasons for not making it to the next level. When we find one like this, which has University involvement and real potential, we want to make sure we give it every chance for success."

Kazmerski says the more companies that grow and succeed here like DxDiscovery, the more others will begin to believe that Western Nevada is truly an entrepreneurial community.