NRL Multidisciplinary Team Honored with 2009 FLC Award

7/27/2009 - 51-09r
Contact: Donna McKinney, (202) 767-2541

A research team from the Naval Research Laboratory has won a 2009 Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for their development and commercialization of a microbial pathogen identification assay. The team's Resequencing Pathogen Microarray (RPM) technology offers potential applications for powerful biosurveillance capability in the control of infectious disease.

This rapid diagnostic tool determines the genetic profiles of bacterial and viral pathogens in clinical samples like blood and nasal swabs. Genetic profiles are then scored for quality and used to identify the pathogens. The pathogen identities are then validated by comparison against on-line genetic databases of known pathogens.

The NRL-developed RPM technology offers several advances over similar technologies beyond its advantageous use of "raw" un-preprocessed clinical samples - a shorter timeframe (same-day results), simultaneous detection of hundreds of viral and bacterial pathogens in a single sample, including possible co-infecting pathogens, zero false positives, and definitive identification down to strain or serotype levels.

Affymetrix GeneChip platform for performing Resequencing Pathogen Microarray assays.

Bacterial/viral strain and serotype identification can be crucial in tracking rapidly mutating microorganisms or the alarming emergence of drug-resistant pathogens. Commercial applications could range from national security efforts like biothreat detection to screening foods for contamination and tracking the spread of avian flu. The transferred NRL technology, which is pending FDA approval for clinical diagnostic use, is expected to play a significant role in disease surveillance in the future. Any success in identifying infectious disease, whether age-old diseases like tuberculosis or emerging diseases like SARS and swine influenza, will improve public health, lower health care costs, and reduce the social disruption caused by epidemics.

The NRL team is an interdisciplinary group that combines their expertise in biology, engineering, and computer science. The team members being honored are Drs. David Stenger, Baochuan Lin, Anthony Malanoski, and Zheng Wang from NRL's Center for Biomolercular Science and Engineering, along with NRL retiree, Dr. Joel Schnur.

In a four-month period of time, the NRL team successfully transferred their RPM technology to TessArae LLC of Potomac Falls, VA, a biotechnology firm that develops and markets genomics-based diagnostic products. The NRL researchers provided essential technical support and training to company personnel during and after the transfer process. NRL researchers also participated in the formal negotiations that took place in 2006 between NRL and the company for licensure of ten NRL patent-pending innovations and the concurrent CRADA agreement. Because the CRADA is ongoing, the research team will continue its fast-track development of the technology, thus expanding the RPM technology's commercial applications. TessArae products already available to customers include diagnostic kits that screen for upper respiratory pathogens like the avian influenza 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 foodborne pathogens, nosocomial pathogens, and equine and porcine infectious diseases.

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About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country's position of global naval leadership. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to advance research further than you can imagine. For more information, visit the NRL website or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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