A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Innovative Biosensors (IBI; College Park, Maryland), a company developing tests to detect pathogens, reported receiving a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH; both Bethesda, Maryland) to assist with development of a rapid test for prion, the causative agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as “mad cow” disease. The amount of the grant award was not disclosed.

IBI said it will develop the BSE assay test for using the Canary technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Cambridge) and licensed exclusively to IBI.

Joe Hernandez, president and CEO of IBI, said that with the grant “we will be on our way to potentially building one of the most competitive rapid, ultra-sensitive BSE tests available.”

Transmission of the BSE agent to humans, leading to vCJD, is believed to occur via ingestion of cattle products contaminated with the BSE agent; however, the specific foods associated with this transmission are unknown.

IBI says that its technology is expected to have broad applications in food testing, animal health, and human healthcare, including drug discovery and development and disease diagnosis.

BioPhysics Assay Laboratory (BioPAL; Worcester, Massachusetts) said it has been awarded a $925,000 Fast-Track Phase I/II SBIR grant from the NHLBI. The grant will allow BioPAL to further develop its patent-pending gadolinium-based nanocolloid technology as a contrast agent for magnetic resonance angiography (MRA).

Currently, the standard diagnostic tool for the evaluation of cardiovascular disease is X-ray angiography. This procedure requires inserting a catheter into the arteries of patients and administering a dye to visualize arterial obstruction. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 3.3 million angiograms are performed annually at a total cost of more than $6 billion. Unfortunately, this diagnostic procedure is highly invasive and has a small but significant death and injury rate.

In recent years MRA has received increasing attention because of its potential to provide a less invasive and more cost effective method to obtain high-resolution images of the cardiovascular system. The diagnostic power of MRA can be significantly improved by using a MRI contrast agent.

“Based on BioPAL’s Proton-Cascade technology, we have developed an ultrasmall colloidal gadolinium oxide reagent that is stable in an aqueous suspension to variety of challenges, including autoclaving,” said Ernest Groman, PhD, vice president of research and development for BioPAL. “Due to Proton-Cascade, our reagent provides an intense T1 signal that may prove brighter than gadolinium-chelates. This SBIR grant will allow us to further characterize this colloid in vivo.”

In other grants/contracts news:

• GE Healthcare (Waukesha, Wisconsin) reported that it has signed an agreement with VHA (Irving, Texas) to offer select professional services to VHA member facilities through GE’s Performance Solutions business. The three-year agreement, effective July 1, represents an expansion of an existing relationship between GE Healthcare and VHA. The agreement encompasses operational, business growth and marketing solutions for radiology and education in GE’s change management techniques.

VHA and GE Healthcare also will seek to align forces in support of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (Cambridge, Massachusetts) campaign to save 100,000 patient lives by June 2006. Both organizations have signed on as national partners and are advocating adoption of clinical measures proven effective in reducing medical errors.

• Berlex (Montville, New Jersey) a U.S. affiliate of Schering (Berlin), said it has been awarded a two-year contract renewal by the healthcare group purchasing organization HealthTrust Purchasing Group (HPG; Brentwood, Tennessee) to provide Magnevist Injection contrast media for use in MRI to members of the HPG network. The new agreement is a two-year renewal of the current contract and is a sole-source contract for Magnevist.

Berlex develops diagnostic imaging agents and treatments in the areas of female healthcare and specialized therapeutics for life-threatening and disabling diseases in the fields of the central nervous system, oncology and gastroenterology.

• Bayer HealthCare Diagnostics Division (Tarry-town, New York), a member of the Bayer Group, reported that it has been awarded a single-source award for urine chemistry analyzers and test strips and a dual-source award for urine microscopy from Novation, the supply company of VHA (Irving, Texas) and the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC; Oak Brook, Illinois).

The award provides VHA and UHC member organizations with access to savings on Bayer Diagnostics’ urine chemistry and urine microscopy products and adds to the four previously established contracts with Novation for automation and immunoassay, hematology, blood gas and molecular products.

The three-year agreement, which began Aug. 1, includes urine chemistry products and reagents for use in the central laboratory and physician office lab settings. Specific products covered in this award include the Clinitek Atlas Urine Chemistry System, Sysmex UF-100 Microscopy System, Advia Urinalysis WorkCell Integrated System, Clinitek 500 urinalysis instrument, Clinitek Status analyzer and Multistix Urinalysis Test Strips.

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