CDC funds tests to sort seasonal, avian flu

Jun 17, 2008 (CDIRAP News) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded two contracts worth a total of $12.9 million to develop influenza tests, with the aim of making it possible to distinguish seasonal from avian flu viruses within 3 hours.

Contracts worth about $6.5 million each were awarded to Nanogen Inc., San Diego, and Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC, Gaithersburg, Md., the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week.

The contracts are for "initial phased development," HHS officials said in a news release. Possible additional funds under the contracts could bring the total for Nanogen to $10.4 million and the total for Meso Scale Diagnostics to $12.1 million over 3 years, the statement said.

Testing for H5N1 avian influenza now can take up to 24 hours, according to HHS. The contracts will support the advanced development of tests that could be used in hospital or commercial laboratories and "would expedite the diagnosis of large numbers of patients," the agency said.

"The early detection of emerging pandemic influenza is critical to the nation's pandemic response," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in the HHS news release. "Early detection will aid in improving patient survival, overall health outcomes, and use of containment measures in the event of an influenza pandemic."

Nanogen, in a Jun 5 news release, said it would use the funding to develop "a fast molecular test that simultaneously detects and differentiates" influenza A and B, the seasonal influenza A subtypes H1N1 and H3N2, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In addition, the contract provides for a secondary test for avian flu subtypes H5N1, H7N1, and H9N1, to be used for samples that test positive for influenza A but negative for seasonal flu.

The company said it would develop the tests in collaboration with the Medical College of Wisconsin and HandyLab Inc.

Nanogen and Meso Scale were among four companies that received CDC contracts in December 2006 to develop 30-minute tests specifically for H5N1 influenza. At that time the CDC said it hoped a test could be ready and licensed within 2 to 3 years. The other companies that won contracts were Iquum, of Marlborough, Mass., and Cepheid, Sunnyvale, Calif.

See also:

Jun 12 HHS news release

Dec 4, 2006, CIDRAP News story "CDC funds work on rapid tests for avian flu"

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