Luminex applies medical know-how to war against bioterrorism

Published 18 August 2006

Texas company using technology it developed for drug companies and clinical research labs as a basis for developing a trigger sensor which would alert of a bioterror attack

Austin, Texas-based Luminex believes the war on terrirosm — especially, bioterrorism — offers it an opportunity. The eleven-year-old company develops systems which quickly test blood and other fluids for multiple substances for customers such as drug companies, clinical research labs, and major hospitals. In the past month, however, the homeland security market came calling: The company has received two contracts which involve applying the technology to defending against terrorist attacks with biological weapons.

The company is now a subcontractor in a deal with DHS to develop an early-warning system to detect biological weapons in the air. Luminex is charged with creating a “trigger” sensor which works like a smoke alarm, testing the air for pathogens. Existing technology is too slow and requires too many samples, the company says. The Luminex trigger sensor could cut the time and number of samples needed to test for the presence of biological weapons. The main contractor is Edgewood, Maryland-based Smiths Detection, a company which provides systems for detecting chemical and biological agents and explosives.

Last month Luminex received $300,000 from the U.S. Army Research Office to examine how to make a smaller, lower-cost version of its testing equipment for anti-bioterrorism purposes.

The company says these forays into homeland security do not mean a shift in its focus away from clinical testing and research. “We are not going to engage ourselves in the market of bioterrorism if that doesn’t apply back to our core markets of clinical diagnostics and life science research,” Harriss Currie said, the company’s CFO, says.

-read more in the Austin Statesman report