Ionian to put biothreat detection in DARPA's hands

Ionian Technologies Inc. received a $2.7 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to develop handheld biothreat detection devices for military and first-responder personnel, the company said Thursday.

Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles is the prime contractor for the program under DARPA. The Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) of Applied Life Sciences in Claremont, Calif., a graduate school dedicated to applied life sciences, is a subcontractor.

The rapid biothreat detection technology used in the Expar device was discovered at KGI and is licensed to Ionian Technologies. Under the contract, Ionian will analyze substance composition and develop chemicals for detecting biological warfare agents using rapid nucleic acid amplification technology, a highly sensitive technique for identifying viral genomes.

"With the expansion of new genomic information and with increasing threat levels to our national security, the need for technologies with improved speed, sensitivity and portability is greater than ever," said Ed Sheldon, Ionian's director of applications development, in a printed statement.

Ionian is a privately held biotechnology firm in Upland, Calif., that specializes in the molecular diagnosis of new and infectious diseases. It was spun off from the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences March 14.

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