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Thermo Fisher Inks E. Coli Test Development Deal with USDA

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Thermo Fisher Scientific today said that it has entered into a collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and Pennsylvania State University to develop molecular tests to detect E. coli in food.

The collaboration will leverage the extensive collections of E. coli strains housed at USDA-ARS and Penn State and the molecular technologies of Thermo Fisher's Life Technologies business. The partners said DNA from around 200 strains will be sequenced on the Ion Personal Genome Machine, and subsequent tests will be developed on multiple Life Tech platforms, including next-gen sequencing based systems and PCR-based platforms.

"Genetic assays that can accurately, rapidly and cost effectively detect pathogenic strains will prevent disease and reduce the economic burden associated with food-borne disease outbreaks," Chobi DebRoy, director of the E. coli Reference Center at Penn State, said in a statement.

In 2011, a research team from the University of Münster sequenced the E. coli strain responsible for a European outbreak that year on the Ion Torrent PGM. The information from that sequencing effort led to the development of a PCR-based diagnostic kits that was deployed in European food safety labs.

"Thermo Fisher is uniquely positioned to connect discovery — the characterization of pathogens by DNA sequencing — with commercial test production," Ravindra Ramadhar, food safety business director at Thermo Fisher Scientific, said in the statement today. "Fast next-gen sequencing followed by rapid test development allowed us to play a pivotal role in saving lives during the 2011 E. coli outbreak."

Terms of the agreement with USDA-ARS and Penn State were not disclosed.