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Q-linea's Biodefense Projects Advance as Firm Prepares Entry into MDx Market

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UPPSALA, Sweden – Q-linea continues to advance its molecular diagnostics program, with the aim of making pathogen identification and antibiotic susceptibility tests available for clinical use by the end of 2015.

At the same time, the Swedish company is encouraged by the use of its technology in an EU-funded biothreat detection project, and it may continue to develop its platform for security-related applications, according to CEO Jonas Jarvius.

Jarvius told BioArray News during a site visit to the firm's office here this week that a section of the Prague Metro will be closed down later this month as part of a project that is evaluating new technologies, including Q-linea's, for their abilities to detect airborne pathogens.

Funded through the EU's Seventh Framework Programme, the Two Stage Rapid Biological Surveillance and Alarm System for Airborne Threats, or Twobias, project includes Q-linea, Uppsala University, the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, the Czech Republic's National Institute for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Protection, and others. The project began in 2010 and is set to run through this year.

"What is out there today is lacking in throughput, sensitivity, and that's the driver," said Jarvius. "We are trying to address it with new systems [and] new technology, and I think we can make a difference."

Q-linea's approach uses arrays of padlock capture probes and proximity ligation probes directed towards specific nucleic acid sequence motifs or surface epitopes in order to detect, identify, and quantify pathogens. Reacted probes are detected using Q-linea's amplified single-molecule detection approach, which involves converting individual target-recognition events into fluorescent micrometer-sized DNA molecules that are amenable to optical detection and enumeration in Q-linea's instrument. Unlike most slide-based arrays, Q-linea's assays are run in etched, microfluidic discs.

Since its founding five years ago, the company has developed a biothreat detection system called Aquila that is based on that technology (BAN 7/22/2008). But in the past few years the company has shifted its focus to the molecular diagnostics market, announcing plans to debut tests for pathogen identification and antibiotic resistance (BAN 9/11/2012).

This week, Jarvius reiterated that Q-linea is on track to make its tests available via a new system referred to Astrid, for antiobiotic susceptibility test resistance identification, within the next two years. Still, he said that the firm's potential success in the in vitro diagnostic market could play well among biodefense customers.

Molecular diagnostics is the "true focus of the company," said Jarvius, but if the test in Prague goes well, the firm will continue to pursue its biothreat detection business. He noted that by having a platform validated for clinical use the firm's technology may appeal to security customers. He said that Q-linea is actively discussing the use of its test to identify pathogens, especially in a "more rugged environment," and suggested that Q-linea could sell the same system with different cartridges: one targeted to users in hospitals and the other to biodefense clients.

Jarvius also credited Q-linea's initial focus on biodefense work with helping the firm to develop its platform to the point where it could be used in molecular diagnostics applications.

"Without having worked in that sector we wouldn't be where we are today," said Jarvius. "When we started out, we were a university spinoff. It allowed us to mature as a company."

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