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Ceres Nanosciences, GMU, Tasso & USAMRIID receive $4.25M from the DTRA

Friday, September 29, 2017  
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Tasso, Inc. (Tasso), Ceres Nanosciences (Ceres), George Mason University (Mason), and the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) will begin a $11.7 million program, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), to develop a reliable, safe, and simple universal surveillance platform for infectious disease outbreaks.

During this multi-year program, which will be initiated with $4.25 million in funding from DTRA, Ceres will integrate its Nanotrap® particle technology, which can capture, concentrate, and preserve pathogens and other biomolecules, into Tasso’s HemoLink™ device for simple and painless collection of large-volume capillary blood samples in remote environments.

Tasso and Ceres will work in close collaboration with infectious disease experts and advanced biodefense laboratories at Mason and USAMRIID to develop an effective disease surveillance platform that can be rapidly deployed in the field, operated by untrained users, and improve early response. The platform will combine the Nanotrap® and HemoLink™ technologies to safely and reproducibly collect, preserve, and transport blood-borne pathogens.

“Infectious diseases remain one of the main causes of death worldwide and a significant threat to national security,” said Dr. Kylene Kehn-Hall of Mason. “In just the last five years, for example, epidemics of Ebola, Chikungunya, and Zika viruses, usually restricted to tropical climates, have reached the United States.”

“When a new outbreak occurs, public health officials quickly need as much information as possible about the pathogen(s) causing the outbreak to determine how to control it,” said Dr. Louis Altamura of USAMRIID. “Analyzing clinical samples from infected patients is one of the best ways to get that information, but existing blood sample collection and screening methods can expose healthcare workers and laboratory technicians to pathogens, presenting safety concerns for these workers and potentially contributing to the spread of the epidemic.”

“We have demonstrated already that Nanotrap® particles can be used to enrich pathogens like influenza from biological samples and stabilize them for improved downstream analysis,” said Ben Lepene, CTO of Ceres Nanosciences. “We’re very excited to work with Tasso, Mason, and USAMRIID to apply that same approach to enrich and stabilize from blood a wide range of host biomarkers along with viral and bacterial pathogens that represent a risk to the U.S. Department of Defense.”

“There is an urgent need for an easier way to reach people in rural or hard-to-reach environments to provide health experts with the information they need to make effective decisions in a timely manner. Integrating the Nanotrap® particle technology and the simple HemoLink™ blood collection technology will enable acquiring samples from populations in outbreak regions without putting phlebotomists or patients at risk or requiring burdensome logistical networks,” said Dr. Erwin Berthier, VP of R&D at Tasso. “The integrated device will be rapidly and safely deployable in any environment and will collect a large volume of capillary blood that can be shipped over long distances while retaining its clinical relevance.”

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