Award

Resequencing pathogen microarray

An interdisciplinary group at the Naval Re-search Laboratory (NRL) has developed and commercialized a microbial pathogen iden-tification assay that significantly improves upon other immunoassay and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory assays available on the market. The group com-bined their expertise in biology, engineering, and computer science to create a rapid di-agnostic that determines the genetic profiles of bacterial and viral pathogens in clinical samples like blood and nasal swabs. Ge-netic profiles are then scored for quality and used to identify the pathogens. The patho-gen identities are then validated by compar-ison against online genetic databases. The group’s Resequencing Pathogen Microarray (RPM) technology gives stakeholders pow-erful biosurveillance capability in the control of infectious disease.Within a four-month timeframe, the NRL team successfully transferred its RPM tech-nology to TessArae, LLC, of Potomac Falls, Virginia, a biotechnology firm that develops and markets genomics-based diagnostic products. TessArae products already avail-able to customers include diagnostic kits that screen for known and unknown upper respiratory pathogens like the avian influ-enza virus, hemorrhagic fever viruses like the Ebola virus, and infectious agents that might be used in bioterrorism. TessArae is currently developing similar RPM assays for equine infectious diseases, tuberculosis, and drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.The NRL-developed RPM technology of-fers several advances over similar tech-nologies beyond its advantageous use of “raw” un-preprocessed clinical samples—a shorter timeframe (same-day results); si-multaneous detection of hundreds of viral and bacterial pathogens in a single sample, including possible co-infecting pathogens; zero false positives; and definitive identifica-tion down to strain or serotype levels. Bac-terial/viral strain and serotype identification can be crucial in tracking rapidly mutating microorganisms or the alarming emergence of drug-resistant pathogens. Ubiquitous commercial applications could range widely from national security efforts like biothreat detection to screening foods for contamina-tion and tracking the spread of avian flu. The transferred NRL technology, which is pend-ing FDA approval for medical use, is expect-ed to play a significant role in disease sur-veillance in the future. Any success against infectious disease, whether age-old diseas-es like tuberculosis or emerging diseases like SARS and AIDS, will improve public health, lower health care costs, and reduce the social disruption caused by epidemics.
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Region: 
Mid-Atlantic