Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Addressing Health Concerns

Mesa Tech, a spinoff of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico received a $400,000 Phase I SBIR grant from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. The funding will develop an inexpensive instrument-free nucleic-acid testing device to diagnose various respiratory diseases in record time. Mesa Tech is currently developing a prototype plan to target the global diseases surveillance market.

They also envision developing applications to use in point-of-care diagnostics, particularly in poor areas of the world reports former LANL scientist Hong Cai, who co-founded Mesa Tech and principal investigator for the effort. For the point-of-care applications, Mesa Tech plans to develop an inexpensive handheld device about the size of a cell phone with a disposable cartridge. Cai said, “In the case of a pandemic, such as SARS or avian influenza, the device could also be made disposable.”

In another project, LANL completed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Biomagnetics Diagnostics, Inc. and licensed the LANL-developed prototype waveguide-based optical biosensor to Biomagnetics.

Under the CRADA, Biomagnetics will continue to work to develop a commercial product to detect a specific biomarker in urine that could aid in the diagnosis of tuberculosis infection. So far, a commercially available product has not yet been built or clinically tested to aid in diagnosing tuberculosis infections. With further research, scientists at LANL believe that a portable biosensor can become a reality and could greatly improve field-based detection of active tuberculosis infection.

“Excellent progress has been made to detect tuberculosis-specific biomarkers and to explore biomarker choices” according to David Hadley in the LANL Technology Transfer Division. “To convert this R&D into a commercial product, the antibodies need to be licensed and the surface chemistry needs to be better understood. At this point, a field site in Southeast Asia or South Africa should be identified where the population with HIV co-infection could be evaluated.