We caught up with Day Zero Diagnostics…
Tell us about your company. What problem are you trying to solve?
Day Zero Diagnostics is out to change the way infectious diseases are diagnosed and treated. Over the last two decades, there has been a steep rise in the number of pathogens that are resistant to various classes of antibiotics. The traditional strategy of using powerful, broad spectrum antibiotics to “carpet bomb” an infection is becoming less and less effective and fosters even more resistance. Day Zero Diagnostics uses whole genome sequencing, a large proprietary database, and machine learning to diagnose an infection’s antibiotic resistance profile in hours rather than the current standard of 2-5 days: a life-saving difference when the risk of mortality is increasing 8% per hour. We provide physicians with the information they need to treat an infection with a targeted antibiotic on the first day they are admitted at the hospital—Day Zero.
How did your company get started?
Day Zero Diagnostics was started out of the experience of one of our cofounders as an infectious disease specialist at Mass General Hospital. Diagnostics were slow and the results not always informative, leaving him frustrated as a physician. In the meantime, a PhD researcher in his lab (another cofounder) was using next generation sequencing as a core tool in her work in understanding the microbiome. Together, they recruited two friends with expertise in computational genomics and machine learning to develop the concept for how DNA sequencing could be used to revolutionize infectious disease diagnostics. DZD was born out of that collaboration; I joined the group to help shape the concept into a company. DZD incorporated in 2016 and used Shoobx to raise our initial convertible note financing.
Why is your team well positioned to solve the problem you’re tackling?
Our founding team combines a complementary set of expertise that is difficult to find, spanning the range of skill sets we need to execute against this type of hard science opportunity. We combine clinical expertise in infectious diseases, deep experience in bacterial sequencing and wet lab science, a strong understanding of genomics, and world-class computational capabilities in one organization. Finding world-class expertise in each of these areas can be difficult on its own, but getting the opportunity to work with a team that combines all of these skills is truly rare. My job as a business strategist and startup executive is to make sure those skills gets marshalled into a commercial program that can win with customers.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
One of the core things I have learned in the startup arena is the importance of believing in the mission of the company and the need that it will fill. All early stage companies have moments of crisis, doubt and loneliness that makes the grass on the other side look not just greener, but positively vibrant. Companies that make it have a team that is able to hold steadfast during those periods, with an unwavering belief in the need to solve the problem and a long term vision that can sustain them past those fluctuations. Developing the patience, sensibilities, and vision to sustain the team over time makes all the difference. Because it’s not a sprint, it’s a… you know the rest.
What resources do you rely on to help your company grow?
As a startup, we are constantly looking for things that can help us today, but that have the ability to scale as we grow into the next phase. Examples of that include ShooBx, of course, which has saved us thousands of dollars and provided us with a good dose of legal education. But I would also include services like Gusto, Google and Quickbooks that offer high value and have an ability to expand and adapt as our needs change. Supportive incubator / accelerator environments like the Harvard iLab & Life Lab, MassChallenge, and MedTech Innovators have also made it possible to access resources that would typically have been out of reach.