In 20 years, bacteria will be the most probable cause of death to humans. Not cancer, not heart disease. Bacteria.
Wait, don’t we have antibiotics?
The day antibiotics were invented, bacteria started developing resistance against them. Leading scientists agree that antibiotic resistance will become the leading cause of death by 2050. And that’s with everything going well. This excludes fat tail events that might come from super-resistant bacteria, and the outcome of those could be another pandemic that makes COVID look like a drill.
Bacteria are smart, not like us, but like every other living thing on earth, they evolve. When antibiotics are given to a set of bacteria, the ones that can resist the antibiotics survive. When the resistant bacteria that survived multiply, it becomes more common. This is the basic mechanism of resistance and natural selection. Or, as Darwin put it:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives... It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
The antibiotic resistance crisis is a possible black swan. Nassim Taleb describes Black Swans as “unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence and their dominant role in history”. The problem is well understood by clinicians and researchers, but there is a lack of solutions. The mentality is mostly focused on upcoming crisis management, not prevention. Pharmaceutical companies don't see new antibiotics as a good investment, and the most common diagnostic method, bacterial cultures, is over 100 years old.
The origins of Solu
I got terrified by the idea of resistant bacteria running rampart at an event about antibiotic resistance in April 2022. After studying the topic for a week or two, I started to realize the potential of DNA sequencing as a way to cope with the problem. Sequencing could be used to monitor outbreaks, trace phylogenetic relationships, determine the effectiveness of therapies, and refine the accuracy of antibiotics. Heureka!
The cost of DNA sequencing has been halving faster than Moore’s law, and the sequencing speed is getting faster with new devices coming to the market. Almost every clinical microbiology doctor supports the idea of sequencing becoming routine in 5–10 years. It will be the next big thing in diagnostics, and the data from the genomes is the key to preventing epidemics, developing new drugs, and treating patients.
Finding a foothold in clinical microbiology
Infectious disease doctors and bacteriologists have recognized the need for new solutions for decades. The experts we’ve talked with understand that DNA sequencing is the next step in infectious diseases and clinical microbiology. But the clinical labs are understaffed with bioinformaticians to analyze the data from sequencing devices. Post-Covid, almost every single lab is equipped with a sequencing device globally, which enables us to start working with the labs right away.
We started first pilots in the fall of 2022. Piece by piece, we figured out which features to build for the software. So far, our software has been able to provide relief to overworked scientists. Clinical laboratories with thin budgets need cost-saving solutions. And we're providing just that – our customers only need to upload the output data from their sequencing device to obtain the results.
Our earliest clients in the United States look for antimicrobial resistance genes and susceptibility predictions in, for example, cystic fibrosis patient bacterial genome samples. Solu's software has allowed them to analyze and interpret the data. Other customers include hospitals and research institutions across Europe.
Solu's scientific advisors consist of experienced professionals such as Prof. Risto Renkonen (former Helsinki University Medical School Dean, Professor of Bacteriology) and Dr. Veko Vahamaki (former Medical Director of Palo Alto Medical Foundation).
To bacteria and beyond!
Our three-musketeer team is building, for the first time in history, a real time database of microbes and their evolution. Our product has the potential to reinvent diagnostics, pandemic control, and therapies. Its applications extend beyond bacteria to include viruses, fungi, drug development, bacteriophages, phage therapies, and anti-toxin therapies – all stored in a real-time database.
Every day, I’m awed by our spectacular, ambitious, and heartfelt team thinking of our next steps. When discussing our vision, product, and next steps, our superhuman, Kerkko, reminds us that: “we’re building a powerful, user-friendly, and expandable product. Not an easy feat, we’ll need the highest quality of talent in tech and genomics, but we’ll get there.”
Where our other superhuman, Timo, usually adds: "And building the platform is just the first step. After that, we aim to tap into the vast amount of genomic samples, indexing them just as Google indexed the internet, and utilizing the data to develop novel algorithms of scientific interest"
I’m convinced that with this team established and the route clear to our goal, we’ll be able to dramatically impact the medical field, and with it, the world.