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Rapid Pathogen Screening Secures Homeland Security Deal

Rapid Pathogen Screening Inc. has landed a contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The contract from the agency's Chemical and Biological Defense Division is for the development and manufacture of a rapid, point-of-care diagnostic test for use during a biological attack or pandemic. All the test would require from a patient is a finger stick for blood.

An RPS representative could not spell out too many details on the contract, but provided a few clues and added that the project has commercial applications on top of the governmental public health potential.

"There is a certain combination of things that the Department of Homeland Security gave us a grant to develop a test for," said RPS marketing manager Laura Lovejoy. "This would be used in a pandemic or a biological attack, with some sort of virus being released into an urban area."

RPS' proprietary and patented pathogen detection approach can be used with various bodily fluids. Theoretically, the kit format developed by RPS can be aimed at spotting almost any virus or bacterial threat, by measuring the presence of the antibody the body creates on its own to fight the invader. The company, which now employs 30, is beginning to market a second generation of its original test kit, designed to spot the highly contagious viral form of conjunctivitis, or pink-eye.

The new version of this kit, called AdenoPlus, was designated this week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as being a test with the lowest possible complexity. This means that the new version can be used by anybody in the medical office, including, for example, technicians or aides as well as doctors and nurses. If the test shows positive for viral conjunctivitis, the patient would know that antibiotics would not be useful. The medical office would be able to warn the patient that he or she remains highly contagious and needs to stay out of work, school or day-care.

The new connection with Homeland Security becomes part of a growing suite of big-league developmental relationships for this small research-oriented company. RPS already has received grants from within the Defense Department establishment to develop a test kit aimed at four different nerve agents, including the two best-known, Sarin and VX.

Last spring, the company separately formed a partnership with Celltrion of South Korea, a leader in identifying and then cloning specific antibodies created naturally by the human immune system to fight various invaders.The company also has an ongoing relationship with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

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