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Katrina Forces Reliagene to Leave New Orleans Temporarily; Firm Sets Up Baton Rouge Comm Hub

NEW YORK, Sept. 8 (GenomeWeb News) - Power-outages triggered by hurricane Katrina have forced New Orleans-based forensics company Reliagene to move customer samples to a dry temporary facilty and establish a temporary communications facility in Baton Rouge, the company said on its web site.


"The short story is that all of our employees are safe," Dave Oehler, Reliagene director of sales and marketing, told GenomeWeb News today. "We found everybody, and everybody is OK."


The company's suburban New Orleansfacilities sustained "zero" damage, although other buildings in the same industrial park did not fare as well, Oehler said. "The major problem is that there is no power to the area currently," he said.


Until the company can return to its permanent facility, it will operate through a temporary Baton Rouge communications hub in the facility of the Louisiana Business and TechnologyCenter, a LouisianaStateUniversitybiotechnology business incubator. "From there we're coordinating all of our customer contacts and shipping of samples and so forth," said Oehler.


"We'll have an announcement soon about how the samples are going to be dealt with in the short term," Oehler said. The firm won't have power or be able to staff its New Orleanslab "for an unforeseen period of time," he said. He added: "It shouldn't be too long.


"In the meantime, we want to be able to have our customer samples run and results returned to them as quickly as possible," said Oehler. "A number" of other accredited US human-identity testing companies have offered to help Reliagene, and the firms are currently drafting agreements to that end, he added.


Oehler declined to name the firms that may be assisting Reliagene.


Reliagene has lost no customer samples, having moved them "under strict chain-of-custody guidelines" to a secure facilty, Oehler said. On Sept. 5, the company "got all of the stuff out of our building that we thought we needed, and set up in Baton Rouge[on Sept. 6], and we went live" Sept. 7, he said.


When asked whether Reliagene's business had sustained any damage, Oehler said, "I don't think there's been any quite yet." The company experienced delays in receiving samples, but expects to continue operating normally, he said. "Certainly there was a delay because it was pretty much chaos here for a week or so, but I think we're bouncing  back relatively quickly."

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