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Cepheid Inks Novel Bioterror-Research Pact With Aerospace Giant, War Expert

NEW YORK, March 11 - Cepheid is joining forces with defense giant Northrop Grumman and Environmental Technologies Group, a subsidiary of a UK aerospace firm, to adapt PCR-based pathogen detectors for use with US Postal Service mail sorting systems, the companies said on Monday.


Though the companies do not have a contract with the postal service, they are anticipating future demand: The postal service recently said that it was evaluating PCR technology that may soon be used to detect potential bioterror agents within its mail systems.


The partnership involves Northrop's Automation and Information Systems Division, which supplies equipment to the USPS. Northrop Grumman is a major defense contractor with the US government. It also develops radar, navigation systems, precision weapons, space systems, and electronic-warfare technology.


Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.


Environmental Technologies Group, a subsidiary of London-based Smiths, develops detectors for biological, chemical, and nuclear warfare agents. It is based in Baltimore, Md.


The two companies have a contract with the Department of Defense to develop handheld biological agent detection machines, and Cepheid, of Sunnyvale, Calif., is working to create portable DNA detection devices.

In December, the company granted ETG a nonexclusive sublicense on several patents for analytical-reaction technology that permits rapid DNA analysis of bioterrorism agents in portable devices.

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