A Medical Device Daily

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week said that it will offer $128 million in loans and grants for distance learning and telemedicine (DLT) in 2007.

USDA intends to make $62.9 million available for loans, $50 million available for loan and grant combinations, and $15 million available for grants alone, said Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas Dorr.

Applications for the distance learning and telemedicine grants must be received by June 8, 2007. USDA will accept applications for loans, and loan and grant combinations, year round.

"Telemedicine and distance learning are the foundation on which the quality of education and healthcare in rural America can and will improve," Dorr said. He made the announcement via a video teleconference with healthcare providers over a USDA-financed telemedicine network.

Since 2002, USDA says it has invested more than $166 million in its DLT program. Roughly 2,226 healthcare institutions have used the program to adopt or develop telemedicine technologies. The technology funded by DLT gives U.S. residents living in rural areas access to medical specialists not generally available to them.

In contracts news:

• Perot Systems (Plano, Texas) reported that its government subsidiary won a contract to support the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for support of its application and infrastructure services in the U.S., Africa and South Asia. GovWorks, Department of the Interior's Federal Acquisition Center, awarded the contract on behalf of NIAID and confirms the value of this agreement not to exceed $145 million.

Perot Systems said it will expand the scope of its work in the U.S. and abroad up to an additional five years.

"NIAID's research yields critical information that helps save countless lives around the world each year, and Perot Systems is proud to be an integral part of this effort," said Jim Ballard, president of Perot Systems Government Services. "As the incumbent on this contract, our associates bring an unparalleled understanding of the people, processes and technologies that help NIAID meet its challenges and we are excited to be able to build on this relationship."

Perot Systems is a provider of information technology services and business solutions.

• Pacific Biometrics (PBI; Seattle) has won a contract for specialty laboratory testing services for the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in support of a long-term clinical study known as the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), being conducted by the NIA.

The BLSA is a multidisciplinary observational study of the physiological and psychological aspects of human aging and diseases and conditions that increase with age. Information from the BLSA is expected to define strategies to improve quality of life in old age and prevent and delay loss of independence.

PBI will provide the NIA with a series of tests for hormones and inflammatory and bone markers relevant to the study. The study has been in progress for several decades and is expected to continue for 30 years before completion.

PBI provides specialized central laboratory and contract research services to support pharma and diagnostic manufacturers conducting human clinical trials. The company provides expert services in the areas of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis and nutrition.

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