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Massachusetts Commits $1M to Fund R&D for Disposable Ebola Test

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center yesterday announced a $1 million challenge grant to fund research and development for a rapid, disposable, molecular diagnostic test for the Ebola virus.

The grant will support a partnership of firms, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions. The partnership is led by Diagnostics For All and includes Harvard University, the Broad Institute, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, GE Healthcare, Cambridge Consultants, Eiken, BBI Solutions, Impact Technology Development, and Sierra Leone's WellBody Alliance. Under the terms of the award, the partners will seek to raise an additional $4.5 million.

The grant will support work on an Ebola molecular diagnostic test that incorporates isothermal nucleic acid amplification on a paper substrate. The device is being designed to generate results from a single finger-prick of blood, and to provide a clear positive or negative response in 45 minutes. It will not require the use of laboratory equipment and could be available for testing in six months.

"The core vision of the Ebola diagnostic program is to create the world's first molecular assay in a disposable low-cost format that entirely eliminates the need for instrumentation," Diagnostics For All President and CEO Lovell Smith said in a statement. "We believe this can have deep impact on the Ebola crisis, as well as in other areas of infectious disease that are threatening and will threaten populations worldwide."

As of December, there have been about 18,000 confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola during the current outbreak, with about 6,400 deaths in West Africa, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center said. In response, a number of firms have announced plans to develop molecular diagnostic tests for Ebola, including Cepheid, or said they will pursue Emergency Use Authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration to make nucleic acid tests available for Ebola detection.  Others have received EUA for their RT-PCR assays since the outbreak began in August.

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