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Akonni Biosystems Wins NIH SBIR Grant for Pediatric Respiratory Disease Diagnostics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Akonni Biosystems said today that it has received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop molecular diagnostic tests for lower respiratory diseases in children.

The award, worth $225,000 and administered by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is specifically intended to support the development of noninvasive, rapid tests that can be used at the point of care in developing country settings.

Akonni will apply proprietary technologies such as methods for preparing nucleic acids from several sample types, including saliva, oral swabs, and bodily secretions like urine, tears, and sweat. The company also intends to explore the use of multiplex nucleic acid amplification assays to diagnose clinically relevant organisms including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, an Akonni spokesperson said.

"The diagnosis of lower respiratory tract infections in children presents an additional challenge," Rebecca Holmberg, director of application development at Akonni and a principal investigator on the project, said in a statement.

"Specimen collection of sputum is difficult for children to produce and bronchoalveolar lavage is invasive and burdensome for children, particularly for those with wheezing and coughing symptoms," Holmberg added. "These collection methodologies also introduce variability in the quality of the specimen and are dependent on the skill and experience of the nurse or technician."