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Ceres Nanosciences Nabs $243K SBIR Grant to Adapt RNA Capture Tech for Portable Sequencing

NEW YORK – Ceres Nanosciences announced Monday it has won a $243,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Manassas, Virginia-based infectious disease testing firm will use the funding to adapt its Nanotrap virus particles to work with portable sequencing tools. These hydrogel nanoparticles house chemical affinity baits, providing an alternative to RNA extraction kits and could be used to build viral pathogen surveillance workflows.

"We can increase the amount of genomic material that goes into the sequencers by 10-fold," Ben Lepene, Ceres CTO, said in a statement. "This should, in turn, significantly improve the sensitivity of the portable pathogen sequencing workflows that are out there."

The grant follows a $6.5 million contract awarded to Ceres earlier this month by the National Institutes of Health to increase manufacturing capacity for its particles. In 2017, Ceres raised $3 million as part of a Series A financing round.

The firm has also received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop tuberculosis and Ebola tests and is developing additional diagnostic tests for Zika virus and Lyme disease.

"With this award from CDC and the recent contract awarded to Ceres by the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Advanced Technology Platforms (RADx-ATP) program to increase SARS-CoV-2 testing capacity in the United States, Ceres is going to help lead the nation out of the current pandemic and is going to build the tools to help avoid the next one," Ceres Chief Business Officer Robbie Barbero said in a statement.