A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pennsylvania) reported securing $1 million in the defense appropriations bill for Schott North America (Elmsford, New York) for research and development of a fully automated system for detecting the presence of biological agents.

This proposed diagnostic system would improve the ability of the Department of Defense to determine and/or confirm the nature and severity of a biological attack in a timelier manner.

The system involves a glass microarray platform divided into 96 sections. A sample containing DNA from biological agents, such as bacteria or spores, would be placed into each of the sections so that 96 tests could be run simultaneously to identify what pathogens were present in the sample. The multiplexed technology allows each of the tests to potentially diagnose up to 2,000 pathogens.

Currently, identification tests diagnose for a single pathogen and typically take from 24 to 72 hours or longer. The multiplexed microarray platform would "significantly reduce" the identification and confirmation time and would also enable the simultaneous screening of biological samples for multiple pathogens.

"In a bioterrorism attack, authorities need to quickly and accurately determine which pathogenic biological warfare agents are being used if they hope to limit the attack's effect on the population," said Sam Conzone, PhD, director of Schott North America's regional research and development unit. "This research grant gives us the opportunity to potentially help authorities reduce the damage caused by a bioterrorism attack by developing a low-cost, easy-to-use, highly sensitive tool to rapidly diagnose patients possibly infected by pathogens in such an attack."

Schott plans to collaborate with the University of Scranton (Scranton, Pennsylvania), among other entities, on the project.

Atom Sciences (Oak Ridge, Tennessee) reported receiving a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH; Bethesda, Maryland) for more than $600,000 to develop a new technology to rapidly identify pathogens responsible for disease in case of a biowarfare attack or a major outbreak. The two-year grant is provided under a special Small Business Biodefense Program with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (also Bethesda).

"All disease-causing agents have a DNA ‘fingerprint'," said Dr. Tom Whitaker, president of Atom Sciences. "Our technique will allow testing for a large number of the fingerprints simultaneously, saving money and precious time in the event of a bioterrorist attack or a natural outbreak."

"The initial work will be aimed at the bacteria that cause cholera because of its significance as a bioweapon," added Dr. Richard Hurt, principal investigator for the project. However, the process also can be widely applied to a variety of other uses including foodborne pathogen detection, agricultural and veterinary testing, water testing and clinical testing.

A portion of the work for the grant will be carried out at the University of Tennessee's (Knoxville) microbiology department.

In other grants/contracts news:

• GE Healthcare (Waukesha, Wisconsin) and Intermountain Healthcare (San Diego), an integrated healthcare system, signed a contract for the implementation of GE's Centricity Radiology Solution, a combined picture archiving and communications system (PACS) solution and industry-leading radiology information system (RIS), formerly IDX Imagecast, in 21 institutions across Intermountain Healthcare's network. When complete, the installation will mark the largest GE centralized PACS installation in the U.S.

The announcement was made during the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (Chicago) conference and exhibition in San Diego.

"This is another great step in our collaboration with Intermountain Healthcare to develop an IT system that simplifies healthcare's current approach to clinical information systems," said Tom Riesenberg, general manager of Centricity Imaging Solutions for GE Healthcare. "By implementing our Centricity Radiology Solution across Inter-mountain Healthcare's network of hospitals we are working towards ultimately providing all facilities – regardless of where they are located – access to the most comprehensive clinical data."

GE said it also intends to provide other Centricity technologies for departments, including computerized physician order entry, across institutions within Intermountain Healthcare's network, which includes 92 clinics/physician offices and 21 hospitals in Utah and Idaho.

Group purchasing organization MedAssets Supply Chain (Atlanta) has signed a contract with Elekta (Stock-holm, Sweden), and Impac Medical Systems (Mountain View, California), an Elekta company, for radiation oncology treatment products and Impac's oncology-specific healthcare IT solutions.

MedAssets is the first GPO to sign a joint Elekta/ Impac contract since the companies combined in 2005. The contract includes the Elekta Synergy treatment delivery series and the Mosaiq product spectrum from Impac. In addition, MedAssets has a contract with Elekta for stereotactic neurosurgical products, including the Leksell Gamma Knife.

Elekta said that a majority of the top 10 healthcare GPOs in the U.S. now have provider contracts with it for radiation oncology, stereotactic radiosurgery and associated neuroscience products.

Jay Hoey, CEO of Impac, said that MedAssets customers "will be among the first in the U.S. to benefit from the close collaboration and joint development between Elekta and Impac." Elekta acquired Impac early last year.

Elekta reports its systems and solutions used at more than 3,000 hospitals around the world to treat cancer and manage clinical operations as well as to diagnose and treat brain disorders.

• Nellcor (Pleasanton, California) has been awarded a three-year-dual source contract as a supplier of pulse oximetry products to VHA (Irving, Texas) and University HealthSystem Consortium (Oak Brook, Illinois) member hospitals.

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