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New technology with potential for real-time detection of anthrax and other infectious diseases

BTG : 11 October, 2006  (New Product)
BTG, the global technology commercialisation company, today announced it has acquired a new diagnostic technology that has the potential to offer real-time detection of infectious diseases, such as anthrax, smallpox, AIDS and influenza. The primary application for the fibre optic based sensor is in the point-of-care medical market, but it can also be incorporated into environmental monitoring systems to detect airborne diseases.
The technology has been tested for, and positively identified, Rubella, Bacillus globigii, (a bacteria often used to simulate anthrax for testing purposes); MS2 (a virus); Erwinia herbicola (a soft-rot disease commonly found in plants) and ovalbumin (a protein).

This immunoassay technology uses a fibre optic coupler sensor to detect antigens or antibodies in fluids, such as human blood, saliva or environmental sources, for a range of diseases. Early indications show that this fibre optic coupler sensor has the following key benefits:

the diagnostic tool is more sensitive than other technologies available and therefore provides a clearer indication of the presence of a particular disease;
the device is cost-effective to produce and uses off-the-shelf components;
the sensor reacts in real-time to the presence of the appropriate analyte, which means the entire process from set-up to result can be completed in five minutes.
To use the device, a sample of fluid is taken and then injected into the space immediately surrounding the fibre optic coupler sensor. A light signal passes through the fibres and indicates whether a disease is present. Manufacturers will have the option to allow testing for a single disease or screen for multiple diseases simultaneously by using an array of sensors.

BTG is now seeking licensees to develop and manufacture this technology with the expectation that a product could be on the market in 12-24 months.

Anthony V. Lando, BTGs Executive Vice President and Director of Electronics, Engineering & Information Technologies said: 'This fibre optic sensor has exciting possibilities in the Diagnostics market. Finding the right company to develop this technology and build on the existing research is the next critical step in bringing it to market. I am confident that with the appropriate development work, this innovation could revolutionise the way in which patients are tested for infectious diseases.'

Existing tests for infectious diseases take substantially longer than five minutes to provide results. They also require specialised laboratories to provide the diagnosis, regardless of who takes the sample. Researched and developed by Dr David Gerdt and Professor John Herr at Empirical Technologies Corporation, this technology allows the sample and diagnostic process to be performed by the same operator.

Dr David Gerdt, President of ETC said: 'This technology can put the diagnostic tool in the hands of the general practitioner and, in time, the patient. This in turn reduces the number of steps in the process. Medical resources are already stretched and this technology could dramatically improve the health service to patients. Real-time diagnostics will further reduce blind prescriptions of broad spectrum antibiotics for targeted antibiotics, thus extending the useful lifetime of these drugs.'
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