Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tool Ready to Fight Flu

Researchers are developing new tools to characterize biological pathogens that could give rise to potentially deadly pandemics such as H1N1. The system will be able to automatically determine the genetic sequence of viruses such as influenza hundreds of times faster than any other method now available.

The $1.7 million BioCel Automations System was developed in a joint effort between the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of California at Los Angeles School of Public Health, and Agilent Technologies to enable public health officials to rapidly and reliably determine the strain of a virus. The system will also be useful to help monitor animal populations for the emergence of new and potentially deadly pathogens before the pathogens are able to infect humans.

“This system is the next generation tool to rapidly and accurately test and identify biological pathogens in mass quantities of samples. The tool is capable of performing tests 100 times faster than any current method and will provide reliable real-time data to the global health community”, said Nick Roelofs, Vice President and General Manager of Agilent Life Sciences Solutions Unit.

Current genetic identification methods require lots of time and manpower. The new genotyping system features two robots and the ability to fully sequence 10,000 or more influenza viruses per year. This makes it much faster and more reliable than current methods, and reduces the amount of manpower necessary to process a large number of samples.

The system to be deployed at UCLA’s new Global Bio Lab was funded by the Department of Defense and the California Office of Homeland Security and was developed in a partnership between Los Alamos and UCLA.