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Magnolia Medical’s second-generation Steripath platform. (Magnolia photo)

Medical device maker Magnolia Medical raised $20 million to expand its platform for sepsis testing accuracy and to develop new products that prevent false positives in hospital tests.

RTW Investments led the round with participation from prior investors HealthQuest Capital, SightLine Partners and Canepa Healthcare. RTW partner Naveen Yalamanchi, M.D., will join Magnolia’s board. Seattle-based Magnolia has raised $50 million to date.

Sepsis, a life-threatening condition that arises in response to an infection, is a huge problem. More than a quarter of a million people die each year from sepsis, and one in three people who die in hospitals have the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Complicating matters is the fact that positive tests for sepsis are wrong 40 percent of the time, on average. Since sepsis tests look for bacteria in blood and bodily fluids, any outside bacteria — from the surface of the patient’s skin, for instance — that comes into contact with the sample could trigger a false positive.

Magnolia Medical CEO Greg Bullington. (Magnolia photo)

Magnolia CEO Greg Bullington said these errors are both expensive and harmful. “When you take a patient that’s really sick, and you unnecessarily treat them with these high power, high dose antibiotics, there are oftentimes downstream consequences that sometimes do end in morbidity and mortality.”

Magnolia says its Steripath platform can reduce false positives in sepsis tests by more than 85 percent. The mechanical system essentially creates a secure connection to prevent contamination of the sample.

The company backs these claims with something more commonly seen in consumer goods: a money-back guarantee. Magnolia has contracts with the Veterans Health Administration, the nation’s largest health care system, as well as the Department of Defense.

Steripath works in conjunction with existing sepsis testing equipment manufactured by large medical technology firms such as Becton Dickinson and bioMérieux.

Magnolia is also creating products to prevent false positives in tests other than sepsis, though it did not reveal which tests it is targeting. The company has 60 issued patents, with an additional 50 pending.

“Our goal is to have the right answer the first time,” Bullington said.

Magnolia employs around 50 full-time and contract workers, and is headquartered in Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. In 2016, the company raised $13.8 million in a series B round that was led by HealthQuest Capital.

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