Inspired by Grandfather, Philadelphia-Based Entrepreneur Plans to Disrupt The Infection Control Industry
By Jacob Karsch
Mid way through his life, Rosenberg’s grandfather developed type 2 diabetes. Over time, the disease progressed and common complications developed, such as neuropathy (nerve damage), ischemia (blood supply shortages to tissues), and elevated blood glucose levels. The prognosis reached a tragic turning point when doctors discovered an open, rotting foot sore, which after going days unnoticed, turned out to be an infected diabetic foot ulcer. The goal in the treatment of such ulcers is swift, vigilant care to prevent infection from further spreading, and the wound care team did the best they could. Unfortunately, despite a number of preventative treatments and home remedies, the ulcer never truly healed and became infected in the home setting. One infection led to a second, and then a third. In an attempt to curb the spreading infection, multiple toes were amputated, followed by the ankle, the leg below the knee, and finally, the entire leg. The amputations, though, were ineffective in stopping the proliferation of the infection; Rosenberg’s grandfather had already become septic. A few hours after the entire leg was amputated, he died.
To Rosenberg, much of this was a blur; he was only a child, and his grandfather’s condition deteriorated quickly. However, what remains as vivid as ever are the images of seeing his grandfather’s health deteriorate before his family’s eyes.
“I was very young but I’ll never forget seeing my grandfather legless. It was a strange site and something I couldn’t quite completely comprehend at the time. There was a ton of commotion as doctors were crowding his bedside trying to administer antibiotics through an IV to save his life. Unfortunately, the infection was in full circulation and he suffered from a heart attack. There was nothing the doctors could have done; it was too late. They needed to have caught the infection earlier to have had a chance to save his life.”
The helplessness of watching his grandfather run out of treatment options led to a critical moment of clarity for Rosenberg. Despite the desperate circumstances, he witnessed relentless efforts from the doctors and unwavering determination from his grandfather while battling the infection. It was from this formative experience Rosenberg realized he wanted to pursue a profession committed to helping others.
Driven by this commitment, Rosenberg studied neuroscience and healthcare management at the University of Pennsylvania with the intention of becoming a physician. Along the way, he founded The Locus Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to helping students and young professionals engage in charitable volunteer work earlier in life. While the pre-med path solidified his interest in medicine, the healthcare management course work and a summer biotech internship changed his desired role in healthcare from a provider to an innovator. Rosenberg decided that he wanted to operate beyond the clinical setting and made his ultimate goal to positively impact as many patients as possible. After graduating, he pursued a Master’s in Biotechnology and Engineering Entrepreneurship from Penn to help realize this goal.
One day, while learning about engineering medical devices, Rosenberg became intrigued in technologies related to infections. Had there been a device to detect and monitor his grandfather’s infected foot ulcer, he thought, perhaps the deadly infection could have been prevented. Rosenberg was stunned to learn the global prevalence of diabetic foot ulcers: of the 425 million people in the world with diabetes, roughly 145 million develop foot ulcers, and 73 million become infected. Additionally, it is estimated that one lower limb amputation occurs in a diabetic patient every 30 seconds, and 1 in 7 patients die within a year of infection. The financial burden of diabetic foot ulcers is also substantial — in 2013, the US healthcare system recorded $17 billion in expenditures towards diabetic foot ulcer complications alone. Astonished by a lack of enterprise in the infection detection market and motivated by his grandfather, Rosenberg had found his mission: He would build a device to care for open wound infections, saving limbs and ultimately lives.
Within 6 months, Rosenberg founded BioAlert Technologies, a student-led initiative with the goal of developing methodologies that detect infection in real time. BioAlert’s focus is to revolutionize antimicrobial stewardship — the systematic effort by healthcare systems to minimize microbial resistance, increase patient safety, reduce inappropriate antibiotic use, and improve cost-effectiveness. BioAlert is excited to introduce Continuous Infection Monitoring (CIM) systems into the healthcare ecosystem, which will enable healthcare providers to make diagnosis and treatment decisions for diabetic foot ulcer patients using reliable data metrics. The integration of CIM to antimicrobial stewardship makes BioAlert best-in-class for detecting bacterial growth and improving the quality of life of diabetic foot ulcer patients.
The product is a dual-platform software solution that notifies patients of an infection through a mobile app and sends physicians a detailed bacterial analysis that allows them to make more informed clinical decisions.
BioAlert’s device can reduce the cost burden associated with infections and radically improve patient outcomes around the world.
As of March 20th, 2019, it has been exactly twenty years since Rosenberg lost his grandfather to an infected diabetic foot ulcer. He believes that if his product were on the market back in 1999, his grandfather could still be alive today.
BioAlert believes that healthcare is transforming. Medtech and digital health innovations have created new standards for out-of-hospital care, and BioAlert hopes to elevate these standards by redefining medical accountability. Real-time data delivery expands clinical accountability by enabling physicians to identify warning signs and intervene, before they become high-risk. Continuous infection monitoring empowers patient accountability, reducing the unknown and creating an informed treatment environment. BioAlert believes the key to addressing a global health crisis is a fresh approach to acute care. BioAlert’s unique solutions will prevent infections, save limbs, and change lives.