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GEN News Highlights : Aug 10, 2011

Eureka Wins $750K SBIR Grant to Develop Technology for Detecting Anthrax Variants

Firm claims ability to detect rare variants of microorganisms could lead to more specific diagnostics and treatments.

Eureka Genomics won a $750,000 Phase II SBIR grant from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (ST) directorate, to fund development of a technology for detecting rare variants of Bacillus anthracis. The grant has been awarded following the successful completion of a Phase I contract.

Eureka claims the ability to detect and fingerprint rare variants of B. anthracis will accelerate the investigation of bioterrorism attacks or plans, by helping to pinpoint the origin of the infectous agent. The underlying technology will in addition have applications in nondefense situations, the firm adds.

“In addition to forensic applications, the ability to detect rare or minority variants in bacterial and viral populations can significantly contribute to understanding of the complex host pathogen interaction process and lead to new ways to diagnose and treat infections caused by microorganisms such as HIV, HCV, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and cancers where there are multiple choices of therapeutics,” comments Viacheslav Fofanov, Ph.D., Eureka’s director of bioinformatics.

Bioinformatics firm Eureka specializes in the analysis of large genomic datasets, including next-generation sequencing data. The firm offers a range of services spanning sequence data analysis and the detection of nonhost genetic material, through to the custom design of specific signatures for nucleic acid detection, custom projects, and resequencing and mapping.

One of Eureka’s main areas of research is the development of novel methods for detecting microorganisms, and the firm has an ongoing research program with Baylor Research Institute focused on the identification of microorganisms, and in particular the human JC polyomavirus, associated with colorectal cancer. The collaboration, signed in February aims to evaluate whether the JC virus, or potentially another microorganism, is causally involved in the development of colorectal cancer.