US medical device company, Ancon Medical Inc, is seeking funding for emerging technology that could screen for Ebola and a host of other diseases, such as TB, within minutes by testing an individual’s breath.

Ancon Medical is currently pursuing a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s New Interventions for Global Health programme, which awards up to $10 million for technology that can prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The company will also pursue other government and private-sector funding opportunities.

Ancon Medical will use grant funding to further develop its Nanoparticle Biomarker Tagging (NBT) device, a technology that provides one of the most sensitive and non-invasive methods to screen for diseases. Funding will also be used to find the Ebola “biomarker,” the molecular signature that will alert NBT to the presence of the virus, which researchers believe could be found in under two months.

“With viruses like Ebola, not only could Ancon Medical’s NBT technology be the difference between life and death, it could make a crucial difference in preventing and controlling an outbreak,” said Ancon Medical President, Wesley Baker. “Panic won’t protect vulnerable populations from this terrible virus, but technology like NBT can.”

With sufficient funding, Ancon Medical would also be able to complete miniaturisation – from the size of a suitcase to a toaster – of the technology, allowing it to be used in a variety of settings, such as health clinics in underdeveloped nations, border crossings, airports and other settings where early screenings can provide indications that an individual is infected. Further development would also incorporate a touch screen display and cloud connectivity to transmit important data about an array of infectious diseases.

NBT uses a technique that is similar to ultra-fast gas chromatography, a laboratory method for breaking down chemicals through vaporization. However, while current gas chromatography technology is bulky, and only used in laboratory settings and requires hours or days to produce results, NBT is portable and can deliver results in 15 minutes. Ancon Medical researchers believe further development can bring the screening time down to just three minutes or less.

NBT uses a sensitive screening test that can detect samples that are as small as a single molecule, which would allow the NBT technology to detect the Ebola virus within 24 to 72 hours of exposure. Other screening methods for Ebola and other diseases require samples of blood, urine or tissue, which can often be difficult and dangerous for a healthcare provider to collect. With NBT, only a simple breath test is required.

“An early screening result for a virus like Ebola gives medical responders the time to isolate an individual, conduct further tests and begin treatments if needed,” said Baker. “NBT can be the ultimate weapon that medical professionals need to fight this virus.”

Ancon Medical will pursue Federal Drug Administration approval for NBT as a screening device, alerting healthcare and medical professionals that an individual could be infected and require further diagnosis. FDA review and approval could be complete in two years, making it possible for NBT to be used in hospitals and other facilities in 2016.

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