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NIH Awards Ceres Nanosciences $8.2M for Wastewater-Based COVID-19 Surveillance

NEW YORK – Ceres Nanosciences announced on Wednesday it has been awarded an $8.2 million contract from the National Institutes of Health's Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Initiative. The funding will support the development and implementation of wastewater-based surveillance systems for COVID-19.

Manassas, Virginia-based Ceres plans to develop surveillance systems using its Nanotrap particle technology at a network of sites, with an emphasis on underserved and vulnerable populations.

In a statement, Ceres noted that wastewater surveillance can be used to monitor trends in SARS-CoV-2 infection at a population level, but that "widespread implementation has been stymied by the lack of a sensitive, rapid, high-throughput viral concentration method."

The firm's Nanotrap Magnetic Virus Particles can capture and concentrate viruses directly from raw sewage prior to RNA extraction, according to Ceres, and this workflow can be adapted for small- and large-scale surveillance systems.

As part of the new funding, Ceres will work with researchers at Emory University to develop and implement a wastewater-based COVID-19 surveillance system in the metro-Atlanta area "with a focus on use cases for underserved and vulnerable populations," such as correctional facilities, low-income neighborhoods, and long-term care facilities, the firm said.

Christine Moe, a wastewater infectious disease researcher at Emory, said that the collaboration between Ceres and the university will generate "robust evidence" to support the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention's objective of developing a national wastewater surveillance system that "meets the information needs of city, county, and state decision makers to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic across multiple use cases in underserved community settings."

In parallel to this collaboration, Ceres will also be identifying and launching a network of "centers of excellence" for high-throughput wastewater-based COVID-19 surveillance. 

Ben Lepene, Ceres's chief technology officer, noted that researchers from the University of California, San Diego recently described a Nanotrap particle high-throughput method for wastewater surveillance that can process more than 100 samples in a day "with an ability to detect one asymptomatic infected individual in a building with 415 residents." The firm expects to identify additional sites in the US to implement similar approaches.

Last year, Ceres was awarded $6.6 million from RADx to increase the manufacturing capacity of its Nanotrap Magnetic Virus Particles. The Nanotrap technology has also been also utilized for SARS-CoV-2 and Lyme disease diagnostics, as well as in liquid biopsy applications.

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