Additional support from the DHS will allow company to continue development of detection tool for airborne pathogens.

U.S. Genomics received an $8.6-million phase III contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate to continue development of its biological sensor for biodefense applications.

According to this 12-month award under the Bioagent Autonomous Networked Detectors (BAND) program, U.S. Genomics will complete prototype development of its system for the detection and identification of airborne pathogens using its DNA-mapping technology. This follows the successful completion on May 15 of an 18-month, $16.2-million phase II BAND contract. U.S. Genomics began working on the BAND program in April 2004 upon award of a $7.5 million phase I contract.

“The award of the Phase III BAND contract continues to validate the considerable potential of U.S. Genomics’ single molecule based DNA-mapping technology for use as a biological sensor for defense applications,” remarks John J. Canepa, CEO. “The resources provided under the third phase of this contract will allow us to build next-generation prototypes. These prototypes will be used for demonstrating and testing the capabilities of our unique, proprietary approach to rapidly detect multiple bacterial pathogens, toxins, and viruses simultaneously in an environmental sample using a single reagent set.

“The technology’s readings are sensitive to the single-molecule level and yield extremely low false positive rates,” Canepa adds. “Using a universal reagent set that can detect and identify pathogens, the technology produces a genetic signature unique to each DNA fragment in the sample and also identifies the organism from which the DNA originates. Unlike other detection technologies, U.S. Genomics’ detection platform does not require amplification or the use of pathogen-specific reagents for detection of each threat organism. Additionally, U.S. Genomics’ approach has the potential to identify genetically modified species, such as those that may have been deliberately engineered to elude traditional detection methods.

“Advancement of our DNA mapping technology under this contract has the potential to be developed for use in human diagnostics and military applications,” according to Canepa.

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