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UMDNJ, Cepheid Working Together to Advance Bloodstream Bacteria Diagnostics

Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company based in California, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop sample processing and amplification methods for highly-sensitive detection of bloodstream bacteria using nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The grant is for the first year of an expected five-year, $5.5 million program scheduled to run through February 2017.

Because even an extremely low concentration of bacteria present in a patient’s blood can cause life-threatening sepsis, tests to detect blood stream infections (BSI) must be highly sensitive. Most blood stream infections are currently diagnosed by performing a series of blood cultures, a time-consuming process that typically takes days to produce a positive result, and even longer to predict treatment susceptibility.

“Cepheid’s scientists will focus primarily on sample preparation methods for infectious agents from a wide variety of difficult sample types, especially whole blood — one of the most difficult specimens for sepsis detection,” said John Bishop, Cepheid’s Chief Executive Officer. “Clinicians want accurate, rapid results directly from a patient specimen without waiting for culture results. This program is expected to contribute to the advancement of products where difficult sample types are present.”

The award is overseen by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) through its Partnerships for Biodefense program. The overarching goal of the project is to develop tests to detect a variety of bacterial bioterrorism agents in the case of a terrorist attack. Principal investigator on the grant is Dr. David Alland of UMDNJ, and the work on select agents will be conducted in his laboratories.

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