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Roche, Mayo Clinic to Release 1-Hour PCR-Based Anthrax Diagnostic

NEW YORK, Nov. 5 - Roche Holding is about to release a DNA-based test it developed with the Mayo Clinic that can help researchers identify anthrax faster than other products, the company said on Monday.

"The new test can identify the presence of anthrax in less than one hour instead of days," the Swiss pharmaceutical company said in a statement.

Roche will provide the product beginning next week at no charge to roughly 24 laboratories in the United States that are equipped with its LightCycler PCR technology, the company said.

Franklin R. Cockerill, a Mayo Clinic microbiologist, used the LightCycler technology to develop the diagnostic, according to Roche, which is the world’s foremost diagnostics company.  

"This rapid identification will enable doctors to begin more timely treatment of patients who have been exposed to anthrax, and it will more quickly alleviate undue anxiety for people who haven't been exposed," Cockerill said in the statement.

According to Roche, the Mayo Clinic, based in Minnesota, is working with the US government to make the product available to federal and state health agencies. To meet this impending demand, Roche, based in Basel, Switzerland, has “significantly accelerated” production of the reagents used to run the assay. The company also is working with the US Food and Drug Administration to usher it quickly through the approval process.

Roche’s LifeCycler technology is currently installed in more than 400 US laboratories and in some 1,500 worldwide.