Keeping military personnel in the field safe from infectious agents

SAN DIEGO. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) won a 12-month contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a next-generation portable diagnostic platform for military personnel to quickly self-perform testing for a variety of infectious diseases in the field.

According to the terms of the , is set to develop a verification prototype device plus related assay cards for point-of-use molecular diagnostics testing. The portable platform will use sensor technology and customizable, single-use disposable cartridges that can perform lab-quality molecular diagnostics. To use it, the personnel will insert a small fluid sample into a cartridge containing a molecular sensor chip and various reagents that will react when they come into contact with certain pathogens; the actual test occurs when the cartridge is inserted into the portable diagnostic platform device, which analyzes the sample. An easily-read positive or negative test result is then displayed in under an hour.

“Biological threats are a growing concern for field personnel and troops, driving the need for small, rugged, and easy-to-use diagnostic devices that can rapidly indicate positive or negative results to infectious disease exposure,” stated Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. “Currently it takes a trip to a lab and days to receive diagnostic results. This new device, and easy-to-use disposable cartridges, will provide lab-quality molecular diagnostics in the field within an hour. This means field personnel can quickly and locally detect whether they have come into contact with diseases such as Ebola, malaria, dengue fever, or influenza. Reliable diagnosis in a shorter time frame translates into a faster response and more effective treatment.”

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