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Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK) and OpGen Inc (OPGN) Are Quietly Changing The Infectious Disease Landscape

Imagine the following scenario. A patient walks into a hospital with an infectious disease. He sees a physician or a nurse, who diagnoses him, usually on a hunch. In order to try and clear up the infection, the physician prescribes what is essentially a huge cocktail of various antibiotics, in the hope that one of them will solve the problem. Throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks, as they say.

This cocktail either works, and the patient recovers, or it doesn’t, and the patient gets worse or – in many cases – dies. It’s hard to believe, but this is what happens in hospitals all over the developed world at present.

Infectious disease diagnostics and treatment have advanced little in the last 50 years. This has led to the well-documented onset of so called superbugs – infectious diseases that are resistant to currently available antibiotics. MRSA is one. Klebsiella is another. STEC is a third. The list goes on. By 2050, analysts predict antibiotic resistant infectious disease will be responsible for more global deaths than cancer, killing more than 10 million individuals daily. Antibiotic resistance will cause $20 billion excess direct health care costs in the next 35 years, and account for $100 trillion in GDP loss in the US alone. It’s a huge problem, and surprisingly few companies are working to solve it, mostly because the big money is in other diseases.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) is one exception. Through its venture capital arm, Merck is funding the development of what looks set to become a big part of the solution to the antibiotic resistance problem. It is one of the main candidates for bringing the space into the 21st century.

By way of its Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, LLC, the company owns a 37.5% stake in the development stage biotech that is driving these advances, OpGen Inc (NASDAQ:OPGN).
The two companies are working together on a combination of projects that could change how we treat, identify and interact with infectious diseases in healthcare facilities...