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UPDATE: Cepheid, ETG Partner to Develop Biological Agent Detectors for Military

NEW YORK, Aug. 13 – Cepheid and Environmental Technologies Group, a provider of nuclear and biological detection systems, announced a collaboration on Monday to develop an undisclosed number and variety of products for the US military and its allies to detect biological agents.

The partnership seeks to create hand-held devices that can reveal weaponized pathogens in order to provide early detection for troops and for so-called domestic-preparedness users such as police and fire departments, Tom Gutshall, Cepheid’s chairman and CEO, said in an interview.

The collaboration hopes to have a first product available within the next 12 to 18 months, he added.

The deal calls for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Cepheid to use its I-Core and microfluidic technologies to capture, purify and amplify DNA. ETG, meanwhile will integrate, manufacture, and market the new products worldwide.

Gutshall said that the biological targets will be chosen by the Department of Defense, but confirmed that one will be anthrax.

"They [the DOD] will select the menu that goes into these things," Gutshall told GenomeWeb . "The job that we have to work out...is the development of the common platform that will collect the sample, process the sample, identify it, and report that result."

While financial terms of the deal, which is open-ended, were not disclosed, Gutshall said that Cepheid will receive "a modest upfront payment" and "a very nice royalty" from ETG.

"Not a paultry sum at all," he added. 

ETG and its sister company, Graseby Dynamics, will retain rights to manufacture and market worldwide any products developed from the collaboration.

According to Rick Thomas, president of ETG, the technology that Cepheid is bringing to the deal “has already gained an acceptance among [the] US Department of Defense and other government agencies responsible for domestic preparedness and military bio-threat defense.”

ETG, based in Baltimore, Md., provides engineering technology for nuclear, biological, and chemical detection systems for governments and the private sector. Together with Graseby, based in the U.K., and Barringer Technologies, with headquarters in Canada, ETG is part of the Smith Aerospace Detection & Protection Systems.

Last week, Cepheid announced it had partnered with surgeons from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to develop a gene-based intraoperative diagnostic tool.

The effort, which will play out over three years, calls for the company to remunerate the researchers for identifying and evaluating genetic markers for the cancer-related gene CEA. 

Cepheid will use its Smart Cycler gene amplification and detection system to validate the markers, and will use the testing process to develop its automated GeneXpert cartridge-based system for integrating sample preparation.

Gutshall said in a statement last Monday that the company would be a “major financial sponsor” of the work done by researchers, though he declined to provide specific numbers. Gutshall added that Cepheid retains rights to develop commercially any assays that result from the collaboration.

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