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Ontera Lands $983K IARPA Contract for Zika Genotyping Test

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Ontera today announced it has received a $982,593 contract from the US government's Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to develop a molecular test for Zika at the point of care.

The funding will support development of a genotyping test to enable fast and accurate diagnosis of individuals infected with the Zika virus.

Ontera, based in Santa Cruz, California and formerly called Two Pore Guys, is developing a silicon nanopore-based platform for field testing of pathogens in agricultural and human diagnostics. Its first Zika test is being developed to identify patients infected with a Zika gene variant that has been associated with microcephaly, a capability not possible with current protein-based tests for the condition, the firm said.

"By providing nucleic acid testing in the field, as opposed to lateral flow triage tests that only detect antibody proteins, Ontera abrogates the need for sending samples to a lab for confirmatory testing. This aids disease management by eliminating a costly and time-consuming step," Ontera Chief Scientific Officer Trevor Morin said in a statement. "Importantly, by also providing genotyping information, we can quickly assess virulence of the pathogen, and even geographically track strains to determine country or region of origin, thereby allowing efficient disease containment."

Modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, IARPA is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which serves as the head of the US intelligence community.