S1E10 - Day Zero: Modernizing Infectious Disease Diagnosis

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'Meet the Innovators' Season 1, Episode 10: A video interview with Jong Lee, MBA, CEO & co-founder, Day Zero Diagnostics, Inc. Boston-based start-up Day Zero Diagnostics is developing a sequencing-based rapid diagnostic that identifies both the species and the antibiotic resistance profile of a bacterial pathogen in only hours, not days, which for patients could mean the difference between life or death.


Meet Jong Lee, MBA. Jong is CEO & Co-Founder of Day Zero Diagnostics Inc. (DZD), a Boston-based start-up developing a sequencing-based rapid diagnostic that identifies both the species and the antibiotic resistance profile of a bacterial pathogen in only hours, not days, which for patients could mean the difference between life or death.

Currently, patients with a severe infection can die within hours and existing diagnostics for antibiotic resistance, a mounting public health crisis, can take two to five days to return results—a delay associated with an 8% increase in death per hour. By rapidly identifying bacteria and their antibiotic resistance profiles, infected patients can receive the right antibiotic therapy sooner, resulting in dramatically reduced hospital costs, mitigated broad-spectrum antibiotic use, and most importantly, the chance to save patient lives.

Jong’s gradual entry into medical devices began during a year-long diabetes healthcare project which ultimately changed the course of his life. “It had a combination of really great engineering which I found interesting, clinical value which I think is a great mission” and, continues Jong, “it had these competitive dynamics that as an analyst in a strategy consulting firm really appealed to me.” Jong quickly became integral in the medtech ecosystem with a role in the launch of Boston Scientific’s drug-eluting stent, TAXUS, and became the head of marketing and strategy for Conformis. “Over time,” reminisces Jong, “I looked back at my history, and I found that I was a specialist in the medical technology space and that’s really all I wanted to do.”

Meanwhile, Doug Kwon, MD, PhD, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the director of clinical research at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard University, was frustrated with the limitations of infectious disease diagnostics. “The diagnostics that are used for determining antibiotic resistance take days to come back,” Jong explains, “so physicians have to treat using guesswork, trial and error approaches called empiric therapy.” Dr. Kwon began to work toward a solution to this massive problem, but his team needed a business advisor to continue the forward momentum. Doug phoned his old college roommate, Jong Lee. “The call really came from out of the blue,” admits Jong, “but he said the team was the most amazing group of people that he’s ever worked with and that they’re the kind of people you want to go into battle with if you’re going to start a company. That convinced me that this was the right opportunity to go after.”

By using high throughput sequencing technologies and proprietary machine learning algorithms, Day Zero can rapidly predict pathogen species and drug resistance profiles. The company’s novel approach allows for the simultaneous testing of every known bacterial species and resistance marker, along with the ability to identify novel resistance determinants as they emerge. To learn more about Day Zero Diagnostics’ technology and machine learning algorithm, read our in-depth technology profile: “Day Zero Diagnostics: New Diagnostic Rapidly Identifies the Resistance Profile of Bacteria, Enabling Targeted Therapy Sooner” by Mary Stuart, Senior Writer/Analyst in the January 17, 2018 issue of MedTech Strategist.


Day Zero Diagnostics has already seen significant industry support after taking home the 2017 MedTech Innovator Global Competition grand prize, a prestigious award earned during a live vote by 1,500 medtech professionals. To date, the company has raised $3.5 million from angel investors and Sand Capital Ventures and it is looking to raise a Series A round before the end of 2018 to help complete the design and development stage, with the goal to take the device through the in vitro diagnostic regulatory approval process as a de novo 510(k) product. From the entire MedTech Strategist team, we offer Jong, and the Day Zero Diagnostics team, congratulations and best of luck!



2019 Milestone Update:

click below to read press release


Author's Note: Day Zero Diagnostics was an invited Alumni of MedTech Innovator to attend the MedTech Innovator Pitch Event & Stage Competition that took place April 2018 at MedTech Strategist’s Innovation Summit Dublin, Ireland, a global medical device investment and networking conference.

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