NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – CombiMatrix announced today that it has received a four-year contract from NASA's Ames Research Center to design and test a microfluidic system using the company's semiconductor microarray that can be integrated into an automated genetic analysis platform suitable for use in satellites.
The $858,298 contract provides $214,051 in funding for the first year and three option years with comparable funding. In a statement issued today, the Director of CombiMatrix's Homeland Security and Defense Programs, David Danley, said the size and cost-effectiveness of CombiMatrix's array reader will help to enable the project. The company plans to launch an array reader in the third quarter of this year that is the size of a cell phone, he said.
"Our microfluidic system and custom DNA microarray with electrochemical detection can be integrated into a compact package to provide all of the capabilities of ground-based research instruments for studying genetic changes in bacteria over time as they circle the Earth," Danley said.
NASA is reportedly concerned about how space flight might alter bacterial genetics and metabolism following recent reports by NASA investigators, who found increased virulence in bacteria grown in a microgravity environment.
CombiMatrix President and CEO Amit Kumar said that developing a completely automated sample collection, preparation, and analysis system to use in space will also advance automated terrestrial systems that may have both medical and military applications.