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NIH Awards $640K Grant to Rutgers Researcher for Rapid Ebola Dx

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded Rutgers New Jersey Medical School researcher David Alland a $640,000 grant to develop a rapid detection test for the Ebola virus.

The amplicon-nested PCR-based assay is designed to be performed on Cepheid's GeneXpert platform using the firm's assay cartridges.

The Ebola test would analyze small amounts of patients' blood or samples taken from cheek swabs. Alland said in a statement that he hopes to develop the assay within the next 15 months.

In collaboration with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based molecular diagnostics firm Cepheid, Alland's team had previously developed a rapid detection test for tuberculosis. "The beauty of this approach is that there's already a substantial supply of these instruments in developing countries because of the TB tests, so we can piggyback," Alland said.

Cepheid, which markets the TB test, said more than 3,500 of the GeneXpert systems are now in use in the developing world, including 1,000 in Africa.

The new award is a supplement to a five-year NIH grant awarded to Alland's team and Cepheid in 2012 to develop sample prep methods and nested PCR assays to detect bloodstream infections.

In November, Cepheid received a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for up to $3.3 million to develop a molecular diagnostic Ebola test for the GeneXpert platform.

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