By William K. Alcorn
NanoLogix Inc., a local biotechnology company, is putting a new twist on current technology it says will reduce the time to identify the Ebola virus and enterovirus from two days to 30 minutes or a few hours.
Bret Barnhizer, NanoLogix chief executive officer, said the company is configuring its N-Assay Rapid Diagnostic kits, developed to quickly detect and identify bacteria, to do the same with viruses.
Quick identification of Ebola, or ruling out the disease, has practical and medical advantages.
“We’ve talked to some scientists and doctors who say quick testing with screening could help them more quickly discover individuals with natural immunities. That’s what they need to see,” he said.
Also, Barnhizer said, “If you look at what happened in Texas, the health-care system was overloaded.”
Quick identification of Ebola would get people out of the hospitals more quickly and get ambulances that transport suspected Ebola patients back in service faster, he said.
“It would be far better to take a routine test with a quick turnaround of results rather than waiting for days before you get on a plane,” Barnhizer said.
NanoLogix has been aware of the virus detection capabilities of the technology since the N-Assay development, he said.
Viruses viewed as public health concerns before Ebola and enterovirus were influenza, the common cold, and HIV, which leads to AIDS. But, because none of them has an immediate or near-immediate threat of mortality, NanoLogix concentrated on bacteria-detection kits.
“However, with the recent outbreaks of Ebola and enterovirus, there is an immediate need for configuration of the N-Assay for viruses,” Barnhizer said.
“NanoLogix facilities are not designed for work on viruses. So for this project, we are seeking a corporate partner with the facilities necessary to bring the new N-Assay (V) ELISA to the market as quickly as possible,” he added.
“We consider this a matter of national security and an emergency priority. We are in discussions with potential partners, positioned with strong ties to the United States government, who understand the serious threat these viruses represent,” Barnhizer said.
NanoLogix assembles the components and markets the N-Assay kits.
The NanoLogix kit is one of six technologies recognized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization that may be used for virus detection and identification, he said.
Barnhizer and Michelle Durkin, NanoLogix lab director, said the N-Assay (V), however, has unique qualities that contribute to both its rapid detection capability and long-term durability that should be attractive to personnel, in both developed and remote locations, interested in a screening test that may provide results for Ebola or other viral threats in 30 minutes to a few hours.
Barnhizer said Dr. Sebastian Faro, considered one of the top experts in the world on infectious diseases of women’s reproductive systems, made this comment about N-Assay ELISA: “The technology has been applied to the rapid identification of specific bacteria. The N-Assay ELISA technology can be applied to identifying viruses and is inexpensive. This technology does not require expensive equipment, which makes it ideal for a variety of laboratory environments.”
Simply put, the NanoLogix kit contains a plastic multiwell plate (ELISA microtiter plate) coated with specific antibodies that capture the bacteria or virus.
NanoLogix’s proprietary twist, on which a patent is pending, is the rapidity with which its kits identify viruses.
“With the right partner, the kits would be available within a matter of weeks or a couple of months. Everyone realizes the threat. We need to make sure everyone is protected. We want to be a part of that. Sometimes it takes a small company to come out with the new idea,” Barnhizer said.
Barnhizer worked in West Africa in 2004-05, giving him firsthand experience with health-care systems there. He said Ebola is an extremely serious threat that needs to be contained at or as close to the outbreak source as possible.
“This issue and challenge is about time and the safety of everyone’s family, friends and the public,” he said.