Sefunda is on a mission to make rapid PCR testing an accessible standard for everybody. To date most infectious diseases are treated empirically, meaning a broad-spectrum antibiotic or a combination regimen is prescribed covering multiple possible pathogens. This practice can not only lead to poor outcomes and severe side effects, but over-treatment also contributes to our path into a post-antibiotic world. The gold standard for evidence-based treatment is elaborate lab testing including molecular testing and clinical culture, which is costly and time consuming. If done at all, treatment is still started before test results are available. Sefunda takes up the banner to democratize patient tailored medicine by filling a blank between prohibitive lab workup , narrow scope testing and strictly empiric treatment. We are developing a fully integrated rapid PCR platform delivering just the right amount of information on the spot.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Urgency - what we do first.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are the most common notifiable infectious diseases in the US.
Both, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, can cause severe reproductive complications and co-infection can lead to a higher transmission rate of HIV. Rapid detection and prompt treatment of patients and partners is imperative to prevent spreading. One of the most urgent global public health concerns is the emergence of extensively drug-resistant gonorrhea.
Over the last century gonorrhea has developed resistance to almost every antimicrobial used for its treatment. Today Ceftriaxone (CRO), as the one last resort option is recommended as mono-therapy. As more and more strains resistant to this third-generation cephalosporin are emerging, it is only a matter of time until they take over and render some gonorrhea infections untreatable. CRO is administered as an intramuscular injection which usually requires an additional visit to the doctor. Orally administered ciprofloxacin (CIP) has been successfully used for gonorrhea treatment for decades. However, in 2007 the WHO recommended against its use due to increasing resistance. While precautions against broad use of CIP are necessary and important, 70-80% of today’s infections in the US are still susceptible to CIP. Sefunda`s CT/NG + R/LGV test provides antimicrobial resistance information immediately together with the positive test result. This information can help providers decide on a safe, effective, and more patient acceptable treatment and has the potential to spare valuable last line treatment to help delay the spread of untreatable pan resistant gonorrhea.
Inappropriate treatment can also occur if an LGV infection is not recognized. LGV is a Chlamydia sub-type with increased virulence causing more invasive infection of the lymph system compared to CT non-LGV infections. LGV requires a different treatment regimen but molecular testing to discriminate LGV from non-LGV infections is generally not done.
The Benefit - where are we going.
Although desired, patient tailored treatment is not widely implemented yet. The greatest barrier for achieving it today are economic constraints. Sefunda is taking one step further towards this vision by bridging the gap between cost intense and time-consuming lab testing and empiric treatment. We are providing actionable information right at the bedside, the emergency department check-in or the local pharmacy.
Further information on the topic:
Antimicrobial resistance is the potential of a microorganism to circumvent the mechanism of action of a drug. These features are often inscribed in the genome and can be detected by PCR. Ciprofloxacin (CIP) resistance of gonorrhea for example is highly correlated with the point mutation S91F in the gyrA gene. In a recent study 99.2% of CIP resistant strains showed this mutation. At the same time lack of this mutation strongly correlates with CIP susceptibility and infections can successfully be treated with this drug. Sefunda and others are constantly working on understanding the genetics of drug resistance, more sensitive ways to detect mutations and smarter solutions to curate these complex interactions.
Virulence factors can be used to map invasiveness and persistence of pathogens and can help to assess risk and plan treatment. We believe that characterizing an infection by its degree of pathogenicity rather than strict species identification can be beneficial. Similarly, different sub-types of pathogens can in some cases cause more severe or more invasive infections. Some Chlamydia serovars, Lymphogranuloma venereum, for example require a different treatment regimen. Aggravatingly, the infection can be asymptomatic and treatment failure might not be immediately apparent, leading to further transmission and long-term sequel.
Host biomarkers can be indicators for severity, progress and prognosis of an infection. Besides characterizing the causative agent, a patient`s response to the infection can be used to guide treatment decisions. Sefunda`s goal is to draw information about the severity of an infection without the blood-draw and deliver results immediately with the test result. To avoid over-treatment with all its consequences for the individual and our society it is not enough to identify the cause but also information that predicts the individual’s response to initiate the most effective and gentle path to healing.
For highly contagious respiratory or gastrointestinal tract infections the urgency is often not treatment but preventing an outbreak. Rapid testing can help to confidently triage patients, to help decide who needs treatment, isolation or support. Sefunda is working on rapid and economic solutions to seamlessly integrate into bustling emergency and urgent care units, to support a busy user with no time to guess.
With time to correct treatment and economic accessibility being fundamental to success, enough information is enough!
The Concept - what we do right.
A real time Diagnostics Platform.
Through our rapid, lean, and user-friendly testing platform we make patient-tailored treatment truly accessible and affordable for everybody – delivering immediate actionable results for treatment decision within one single visit. By combining reliable and adaptable technology with smart multiplexing capabilities, we bring the precision of a molecular diagnostics lab to the doctor’s office.
Each curated combination of syndromic tests delivers results including the most relevant actionable markers in under 25 minutes, is designed for the point of care and with the user in focus.
Melanie Schäpers Chief Operating Officer
Dr. Melanie Schäpers Melanie studied chemistry at the TU Dortmund. After her PhD she worked as a materials scientist at the Leibniz University of Hanover, before starting her carreer in medical technology in 2005 at Dräger Medical. With more than 15 years experience in developing and testing medical devices Melanie’s job as Sefunda’s COO is to ensure that the project follows a lean and efficient path from development to mass production and distribution.
Katharina Elmer Product Management
Dr. Katharina Elmer Katharina received her PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Munich, where she analyzed the function of small regulatory RNAs in fruit flies. She spent the next 4 years in the US, briefly working on ancient DNA sequencing at Stanford Department of Genetics, then as a Scientist in a Start-Up developing a NGS diagnostics pipeline for Infectious Diseases (Arc Bio now Cantata Bio). Her role at Sefunda is developing the overall product vision and keeping the whole team`s efforts in line with set goals. Using her experience with sample prep, qualitative and quantitative nucleic acid analysis, she contributes in the lab whatever necessary to build the best possible product.
Marion Gilsdorf Laboratory Associate
Dipl. Inf. (FH) Marion Gilsdorf Marion holds a diploma in Bioinformatics from the University of Applied Science in Bingen, Germany. During her seven years at Roche Diagnostics, Switzerland she gained knowledge in the Assay Development for the detection of infectious diseases on diverse diagnostic platforms (Roche cobas family). She is trained as Biosafety Officer and experienced in working in a Quality controlled- and regulated environment.
At Sefunda, Marion is responsible for all laboratory related processes like experimental work, ordering and biosafety.
Serej Ley Project Lead & Senior Scientist
Dr. Serej Ley Serej is our project leader responsible for assay development. A molecular epidemiologist by training, with an MSc in molecular biology and a PhD in microbiology, she is dedicated to applying her knowledge and skills to accelerate the development of rapid, reliable and user-friendly diagnostic tools that contribute to improving health for all. Serej has over 15 years of experience in infectious diseases research, including the detection and characterization of antibiotic resistance. She has in-depth knowledge of a broad range of molecular methods, and has, in addition, contributed to the development of national and international health policy. Serej has several years of international experience working in multidisciplinary and multicultural teams in Switzerland, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and South Africa.
Laurin Diener Systems Engineering
M. Sc. Laurin Diener Laurin holds a MSc in Biomedical Engineering and a BSc in Physics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH). With over 6 years work experience in medical device development and in IVD, he brings practical knowledge in microfluidics and system integration, verification and testing as well as requiremets handling from proof of concept to design transfer.
Jacob Börold Scientist
Dr. Jacob Börold Jacob found his calling for virus research during his B.Sc. in Biology at the University of Tübingen. He followed this passion with a research-focused M.Sc. program on infectious diseases at the University of Heidelberg. Following research stays at McGill University, Montreal and EPFL, Lausanne, he graduated with a project on the evolution of HBV. In 2017 he joined the Institute for Medical Virology, University of Zurich for his PhD working on antiviral immunity and interferon regulation. After a postdoc on skin immunity at the University Hospital Zurich, he joined Sefunda in March 2022 as the in-house virus expert.
Board of Directors.
Michael Brück Acting CEO & Chairman of the Board
Eric Kübler Member of Board
Board of Advisors.
Prof. Dr. med. Dr. phil. Adrian Egli
Adrian Egli Trained at the University of Basel, Switzerland, Adrian holds a MD and a PhD in Clinical Microbiology. Since 2022 he is the Director of the Institute of Medical Microbiology of the University of Zurich.
His current work focuses on:
Developing new diagnostic and screening assays for rapid detection of multidrug resistant and virulent pathogens
Exploring novel typing technologies such as whole genome sequencing
Combining phylogenetic tree structures with the impact of individual and herd immunity at various scales using computational models
Understanding pathogen evolution in the context of the host/pathogen/environment interaction
Prof. Dr. med. vet. Nicole Borel
Nicole Borel Nicole is a DVM and Board-certified Specialist in Veterinary Pathology at the University of Zurich. She is the Head of the National and OIE Reference Laboratory in ovine Chlamydiosis. Since 2013, she is Head of the Division Infection Pathology and since 2020 Associate Professor, Institute of Veterinary Pathology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich. Nicole is a member of the Editorial Board, Section Bacteriology of Current Clinical Microbiology Reports, a Member of the international subcommittee for chlamydial taxonomy and part of the Evaluation Board for PostDoc Mobility Fellowships, Domain IIIb (Biology & Medicine), Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
She currently focuses on:
Tetracycline-resistance mechanisms in Chlamydia suis
Co-infection models with Chlamydia and Neisseria
Alterative therapeutic strategies to treat chlamydial infections
Development & validation of new diagnostic tools in molecular pathology
Dipl. Ing. Ralph Hilberath
Ralph Hilberath Academically trained Engineer (Dipl.-Ing.) Biomedical Engineering of Technical University Berlin, Germany. Specialization on biomechanics and implant design. After a career start in a former governmental test institute for medical device in Germany, more than 25 years experience in Regulatory Affairs, Regulatory Compliance and Quality Management with international operating Medical Device companies (Biotronik, Guidant, BD and NSF Prosystem), dealing with registration and compliance projects in Europe, US and different other regions worldwide for active implantable and all other risk class and In-vitro medical devices. Experienced member and leader of ISO standardization Medtech Europe working groups.
Prof. Dr. med. Nicola Low
Nicola Low Nicola is an Infectious Disease Epidemiologist, specializing in Sexually Transmitted Infections. She holds an MSc in Communicable Disease Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of the University of London, UK, and a MD of the University of Bern, Switzerland. She is Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health and Director of Research at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Bern. She is Deputy editor of Sexually Transmitted Infections, Associate Editor for PLOS Medicine and Secretary General of the International Society for STD Research (ISSTDR).
She currently focuses on:
Epidemiology and prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STI), HIV, and vaccine preventable diseases
Evaluation of screening programmes for Chlamydia trachomatis
Antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Mycoplasma genitalium
Advocating research integrity and open access publishing
Sefunda is seeking partnership for investments and network building.
We are open for discussion concerning amount, future ownership and pricing.