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Northrop Grumman Gets $8.4M from USDHS to Field-Test PCR-Based Biothreat Detector

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Northrop Grumman said today that it has received an $8.4 million contract from the US Department of Homeland Security to begin field-testing a new generation of autonomous PCR-based biodetection instruments at various US sites.

Northrop Grumman received the award under the BioWatch Gen-3 System Performance Demonstration Contract, and said that the contract could be worth up to $37 million over three years.

Under the contract, the defense company will test 12 of the platforms, dubbed Next-Gen Automated Detection Systems, in indoor and outdoor locations in an undisclosed major US city for several months to determine its readiness. The company will provide biodetection equipment and technical support, including operation and maintenance of the units during the field testing.

The BioWatch Gen-3 program is envisioned by the DHS as a fully autonomous network of biodetectors in population centers around the US that will continuously monitor the air for agents of biological concern.

Collaborators with Northrop Grumman on the BioWatch program include Luminex, Research International, and Global FIA.

Earlier this month, Northrop Grumman said that it is developing BioCHAMP, a diagnostic system based on MassTag PCR to detect whether a person has been exposed to a biological threat, under a $9.6 million contract from the US Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (PCR Insider, 11/11/10).

In an e-mail this week to PCR Insider, Dave Tilles, director of homeland security and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives defense at Northrop Grumman, said that like the BioCHAMP system, the new NG-ADS system "is based on nucleic acid amplification, but is implemented differently to meet a different mission."

The BioCHAMP system will be used "post-event to perform a triage, and as such is architected to run a large number of samples very quickly," Tilles said. Meantime, NG-ADS "is an autonomous, remote system that runs 24/7 to monitor the air for bio-pathogens and provide an early warning of a bio-terror attack," he added.

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