Colorado Company Gets $2.9M Grant to Develop Test for Ebola Virus

Xconomy Boulder/Denver — 

A Colorado-based developer of diagnostic medical tests is continuing the fight against the Ebola virus.

Corgenix Medical (OTC: CONX) announced Thursday the National Institutes of Health has awarded the company a three-year, $2.9 million grant to further development of the its test for the Ebola virus. Corgenix’s goal is to create a test that will return results within minutes and can be used at clinics and field labs in outbreak areas.

Ebola is a severe hemorrhagic fever, and fatality rates in outbreak zones can reach up to 90 percent, according to the World Health Organization. There currently is an outbreak in West Africa that began in March and has led to at least 390 deaths in Guinea. At least 600 cases have been reported, and an official with Doctors Without Borders recently said “the epidemic is out of control.”

According to a release from Corgenix, current tests require special biohazard handing and long-distance delivery to special labs, which can take several days. A faster test would help public health officials respond to outbreaks in areas where the disease is endemic or ones created by infected travelers.

The release did not say when Corgenix hopes to have a test ready for use.

“This grant comes at a critical time for Ebola and related virus research,” Corgenix president and CEO Douglass Simpson said in the release. “Ebola virus outbreaks are relatively uncommon, but when they do occur, they are deadly and can spread rapidly. This latest outbreak demonstrates that point-of-care testing will be needed on a routine basis to diagnose or rule out both Ebola and Lassa [another hemorrhagic fever] in West Africa, now that Ebola is present in a Lassa endemic region.”

Corgenix will be collaborating with the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium, which is partially funded by the NIH and is a collaboration of academic researchers and private industry headed by Tulane University in New Orleans.

The grant extends a prior two-year grant that funded research to develop special proteins that could be used in testing, the release said. It is the fifth grant or contract awarded to Corgenix and the consortium for research about viral hemorrhagic fevers, which include Ebola, Lassa, and Marburg viruses.

“Ebola is clearly a problem that’s not going away,” said Robert Garry, a professor at the Tulane University School of Medicine. “This grant allows us to build on our previous Ebola testing research, ultimately putting local and regional governments and healthcare workers in a much better position to identify and contain outbreaks with rapid diagnostic testing.”

Corgenix also develops tests for vascular diseases and bone and joint disorders. It was founded in 1990.