MicroProbe Corp. has been awarded a three-year, $520,000grant from the National Institute of Allergy and InfectiousDiseases (NIAID) to develop its DNA probe technology for thedetection of antibiotic drug resistance in people withtuberculosis.

In announcing the R01 grant on Thursday, MicroProbe(NASDAQ:MPRO) said previous studies have shown that thecompany's technology can directly detect species-specificmolecular markers of rifampicin resistance. MicroProbe willinitially develop its DNA probe technology to detect thisantibiotic and then extend the research to detect otherantibiotics.

The technology uses short chains of DNA, or oligonucleotides,which bind to the genetic material unique to a specificorganism. Gerard Cangelosi, project leader for the probe designgroup and the principal investigator of the NIAID-fundedresearch, explained that when cultures of TB cells arechallenged with an antibiotic, the DNA probe will "detect RNAmolecules that indicate metabolic activity in the presence ofthe drug."

Antibiotic resistance can be determined very rapidly with thisprobe, while standard culturing methodology can take weeks ormonths, MicroProbe said.

The Bothell, Wash. company currently markets a diagnosticthat utilizes this DNA probe-based technology, Affirm System.Utilized in doctors' offices, the diagnostic tests for threemicroorganisms commonly associated with vaginitis.

MicroProbe has received several Small Business ResearchInnovation (SBIR) grants from the National Institutes of Healthover the past few years. They include a $500,000 Phase IIgrant to develop a delivery system for antigene compounds, a$50,000 Phase I grant to develop DNA probe-based genetictests for type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes and rheumatoidarthritis, and a $50,000 Phase I grant for targeting antigeneand antisense agents against viruses. -- Brenda Sandburg

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