A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Cepheid (Sunnyvale, California) said it has received purchase orders for about 300 additional GeneXpert modules to be used with the Biohazard Detection System (BDS) developed by Northrop Grumman's (Los Angeles) Security Systems unit to rapidly analyze and detect potential biological threats for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

Systems produced for this purchase order will be integrated into BDS units scheduled for installation as a part of the second phase of the BDS deployment program, which was initiated with Phase 1 in 2004. The company also expects an additional purchase of about another 300 GeneXpert modules later during 2005 as Phase 2 deployment proceeds.

As reported previously by the Postal Service, BDS units are expected to be deployed at 283 mail processing centers nationwide.

"We currently expect to complete units scheduled for installation as part of Phase 1 during the first quarter of 2005," said John Bishop, Cepheid CEO. "At the completion of Phase 1 we expect to have shipped over 800 GeneXpert modules, including spares. This number is expected to increase to over 1,100 to 1,400 GeneXpert modules for Phase 1 and 2 since initiation of the program. We further expect initiation of Phase 2 installations in the second quarter of 2005. The GeneXpert System has continued to perform well, as over 300,000 tests have been completed to date with no false positives."

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor and systems integrator of the BDS, which uses the GeneXpert polymerase chain reaction technology, developed by Cepheid, to rapidly analyze air samples taken from the mail sorting systems in order to detect any potential trace levels of DNA from anthrax spores as it moves through the mail processing equipment.

The BDS incorporates Cepheid's GeneXpert modules as its detection and identification system and utilizes Cepheid's test cartridges.

The UK Health Protection Agency (HPA; London) reported a two-year collaboration with Emergent BioSolutions (Gaithersburg, Maryland) to develop vaccines against botulism.

They will share technology and expertise, with the aim of developing toxoid and recombinant vaccines. There is no licensed botulism vaccine.

Research and development will be carried out at HPA's Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response (Porton Down, UK). Emergent will pay $2 million to fund the work and will hold worldwide exclusive rights everywhere apart from the UK.