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NIH Awards Lucigen $2.8M SBIR Grant for POC Influenza Test

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Lucigen today said it has been awarded a $2.8 million Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a point-of-care diagnostic test for influenza.

The grant, the largest SBIR award ever received by the Middleton, Wis.-based company, will go toward the development of a molecular test for influenza A and B and respiratory syncytial virus. It will be able to test multiple RNA pathogens, Lucigen said.

"The combination of novel molecular technologies, simple protocol, and affordable multiplex testing capabilities residing in a single, inexpensive device will enable near point-of-care diagnostics for a number of serious infectious agents," the company said in a statement.

It said that a crucial facet of its technology is the development of a novel enzyme that can convert RNA to DNA and then isothermally amplify it in minutes. Because of this capability, a device can be designed that doesn't rely on microfluidics, pumps, or valves, simplifying construction and reducing the cost of the test.

The technology, Lucigen said, is "ideal" for low-resource or battlefield settings, and long term it may be used as an over-the-counter device.

"We plan the world's first nucleic acid-based test for viral infections that is cost-effective and can be safely and easily used directly at the physician's office, eliminating the need to send the sample off to central testing laboratories," Lucigen Founder and CEO David Mead said in a statement.

This is the fourth SBIR grant the firm has received in recent months. NIH awarded it a $2.5 million SBIR Phase II grant in March to develop metagenomic DNA libraries, and in October Lucigen was awarded two SBIR grants totaling $350,000 to develop new RNA-seq methods and a tool for correlating genomic and proteomic data.