Transformative Technology Offers Quick, Comprehensive Pathogen Detection
07 Jul 2014

Ground-breaking new system is based on next-generation sequencing

Technology that can find a needle in a haystack is a great idea, but how about a technology that alerts you to the needle you didn’t know was lurking in the haystack? When the “needle” is a pathogen that causes illness in plants, animals, or humans, the value of such a technology is immeasurable. Newly-launched Aperiomics, Inc. offers this breakthrough.

Aperiomics (fka NextGen Diagnostics) was officially formed in October 2013 by President Keith Crandall, Chief Technology Officer Evan Johnson, and Chief Science Officer Eduardo Castro. Crystal Icenhour joined the team as Chief Executive Officer in March 2014 to begin operations of Aperiomics at the Innovation Center of George Washington University in Ashburn, VA.

From a single test, Aperiomics’ innovative technology can simultaneously test for all pathogens, whether bacteria, virus, fungus, or parasite. Since their unique system uses an unbiased sequencing and genomic analysis approach, it is perfect for pathogen discovery, diagnosing difficult cases of unknown etiology, pathogen surveillance, and monitoring of natural animal populations, as well as routine pathogen detection. With this novel combination of genomics and informatics, the company capitalizes on high-throughput next-generation sequencing and advanced Bayesian statistics to produce faster and better results than culture-based methods and even more accurate results than other molecular-based approaches. In simple terms, Aperiomics has combined genetic sequencing with computational power to give a quick answer even if it’s unclear what the question should be.

Potential applications for this new technology are vast and include animal screening, agricultural testing, and human diagnostics. Aperiomics is currently working with groups in aquaculture and seeking funding to expand service capabilities. “It can be difficult to differentiate between strains of pathogens,” Dr. Crandall explains. “It can take up to four weeks to diagnose fungal pathogens, and there is a high degree of false positive results with other approaches. Using our genomics approach, we can diagnose a broad array of pathogens with great accuracy and a fast turnaround time –all in a single test.” Aperiomics currently provides this technology as a service, receiving samples and/or sequence data from clients and providing comprehensive data analysis reporting.

“The biggest challenge in applying next-generation sequencing to real-world use is data analysis – Aperiomics makes sense of the massive amount of data generated by next-generation sequencing. Our transformative technology enables laboratories to analyze samples as never before. I am excited to lead the company forward to apply this technology to environmental, animal, and clinical applications, ultimately improving world health,” says Dr. Icenhour.

Crystal R Icenhour, PhD – Chief Executive Officer: Crystal R Icenhour, PhD received her doctorate in Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine from the University of Cincinnati Medical School of Graduate Studies in 2002. She conducted postdoctoral research in the Thoracic Diseases Research Unit at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine from 2002-2005 and in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Duke University Medical Center from 2005-2006. Dr. Icenhour has held leadership positions in local and national postdoctoral associations including the Mayo Research Fellows Association Executive Committee (President), the Duke University Postdoctoral Association (chair of membership committee), and the National Postdoctoral Association (2008 Chair). Dr. Icenhour was President & Chief Science Officer for Phthisis Diagnostics, a biotechnology company located in Charlottesville, Virginia from 2007-2013. In 2014 Dr. Icenhour was recruited as cofounder and CEO of Aperiomics.

Keith A. Crandall, PhD – President: Keith Crandall is a cofounder of Aperiomics and Director of the Computational Biology Institute at George Washington University. A prolific researcher, Dr. Crandall has published over 220 papers and 3 books, including “The Evolution of HIV” published by Johns Hopkins University Press. In 2010, he was designated a “Highly Cited” researcher, a distinction reserved for the top one-half of one percent of all publishing scholars. His research covers subjects ranging from the evolution of HIV and other infectious diseases to bacterial genome evolution to the biogeography of freshwater crayfish. Dr. Crandall was a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University, a recent recipient of the Edward O. Wilson Naturalist Award, and was recently elected as a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Crandall earned his BA degree in Mathematics and Biology from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan and MA (Statistics) and PhD (Biology and Biomedical Sciences) from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Puyo, Ecuador.

W. Evan Johnson, PhD – Chief Technology Officer: Evan Johnson is a cofounder and CTO for Aperiomics. He is currently an assistant professor of Medicine, Biostatistics, and Bioinformatics at the Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Johnson's research is focused on the development and application of statistical and computational methodology for the analysis and integration of Big Data generated from biological samples. His work has led to discovery and publications in a wide variety of applications including molecular genetics, cancer, and pathogen detection. He has also developed several widely used analytical methods and software for analyzing high-throughput genetic, genomic, and epigenomic profiling datasets. Dr. Johnson received a BS degree in Mathematics at Southern Utah University, an MS degree in Statistics at Brigham Young University, and MA and PhD degrees in Biostatistics from Harvard University.

Eduardo Castro-Nallar – Chief Science Officer: Eduardo Castro-Nallar is a cofounder and CSO for Aperiomics. He received his B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the Universidad de Santiago de Chile and is graduating from the Biological Sciences PhD program from The George Washington University this summer. Mr. Castro-Nallar has extensive experience in microbiology and microbiological techniques as well as molecular techniques associated with pathogen detection. He served as the head of the diagnostic lab in Diagnotec in Chile implementing international quality certifications (ISO 9001/17025) and developing diagnostic assays for the aquaculture and swine industries based on qPCR, cell culture, and immunofluorescence. During his graduate work, Mr. Castro-Nallar has studied population genetics, phylogenetics, genomics, and epidemiology of pathogens of public health importance. He is skilled in genetic analysis of genes and genomes, generation and analysis of high-throughput sequencing data on high-performance computing platforms.

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Sonia Nicholas
Clinical Diagnostics Editor