Product Biography 20/20 Gene Systems' BioCheck: The development of a bioterror detection kit

Published 9 March 2006

As worries about bioterror attacks, more companies offer ever-more innovative ways to detect whether such an attack has occurred. The thrust of these innovative approach is to shorten the time it takes to identify an attack, and, if possible, offer such identification on site rather than in a lab hundreds of miles away. Rockville, Maryland-based 20/20 Gene Systems has created a kit — called BioCheck — which detects protein-based bio-threats, such as ricin and anthrax, on site and within five minutes. The kit would also be helpful in preventing panic and unnecessary work stoppages, as it can determine within minutes whether a powdery substance showing up in an office or on campus has toxic properties. The kit is already being used by emergency units in several large U.S. cities. Yesterday we reported on the latest round of technology commercialization grants awarded by San Diego-based Center for Commercialization of Advanced Technology (CCAT), and we note that CCAT helped fund kit upgrades last year.

BioCheck was created in response to the anthrax scare of fall 2001 — and to the realization that, at the time, there were no portable, easy-to-use test kit which could determine anthrax or any other type of protein-based toxin. Translating concept into product took some time, but in January 2003 20/20 Gene System’s first fully functioning bio-hazard detection kit was ready for market. These initial kits were created specifically to test for anthrax, but BioCheck could also be used to detect other protein-containing agents such as ricin or botulinum toxin. 20/20 Gene Systems’ Liz Marcus explains why: “All bio-terror agents are living things or derived from living things …. The ones that are active and in a visible powder form will be detected by BioCheck because the all contain protein. For example, we can’t detect for small pox, salmonella, etc., simply because they aren’t active as powders.”

The insight of 20/20 Gene Systems proved right: BioCheck’s simplicity and ease of use made it popular in first response circles. The sheer simplicity would remind many of