Abbott (NYSE: ABT) today announced that the Utah Department of Health (UDH) is one of five sites in the United States to participate in Abbott's new PLEX-ID Biopreparedness Evaluation Program (BPEP), which involves Abbott, the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) and five state public health labs.
The program's goal is to assist public health authorities in identifying and characterizing a wide range of microorganisms in surveillance activities for infectious diseases, food safety analysis and biodefense readiness by demonstrating the unique properties of Abbott's PLEX-ID system. The announcement was made at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for UDH's new multipurpose, state-of the-art Unified State Lab (USL), an 81,000 sq. ft. facility that houses a variety of public-health laboratories.
"PLEX-ID appears to be a valuable addition to state public health laboratories and represents an important tool in helping health officials respond to emergency outbreaks more quickly," said Scott Becker, executive director of APHL. "This type of public-private partnership is a unique opportunity for all parties."
In addition to Utah, the evaluation program will be conducted at state public health laboratories in Oklahoma, Minnesota, New York and Virginia.
Currently intended for surveillance use only, PLEX-ID is the only high-throughput technology that offers rapid and broad identification, detailed genotyping, and characterization and recognition of emerging organisms.
The system employs a combination of molecular technologies, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for gene amplification and mass spectrometry analysis to rapidly characterize known and unknown organisms. It is designed to address a significant unmet need by providing test results in six to seven hours instead of three or more days as required with current laboratory methods.
PLEX-ID can identify a broad range of bacteria, viruses, fungi and certain parasites, and provide information about drug resistance, virulence and strain type. It has the potential to be a powerful and versatile tool for public health laboratories, according to David N. Sundwall, Ph.D., executive director, Utah Department of Health. Anticipated public health applications include epidemiologic surveillance, monitoring of pandemic diseases and identification of emerging or previously unknown agents. In addition, the system also is being used for forensic characterization of human samples.
"PLEX-ID addresses the complex challenges of microbial identification by detecting and characterizing both known and previously unknown organisms found in a variety of specimens," Sundwall said. "The high-throughput technology offers our laboratory rapid detection and correct identification of a broad range of pathogens."
Sundwall added that for disease surveillance, the PLEX-ID technology will enable public health officials to track emergent strains as they evolve, mutate and potentially become more dangerous. "The PLEX-ID system permits real-time surveillance, rather than identifying a new pathogen long after it first emerges," he said.
In 2009, PLEX-ID was recognized by both The Scientist and the Wall Street Journal as a top scientific innovation of the year. The Scientist honored the system because it can detect and characterize a broad range of microorganisms in any given sample. The Journal selected PLEX-ID as its Gold winner of the 2009 Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Awards because it is designed to alert health officials to new disease strains, help guard against bioterrorism and help hospitals identify antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their facilities.
The Journal also reported that since its development in 2005, PLEX-ID technology has "been deployed in 20 sites around the U.S., including the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."
"For PLEX-ID, Abbott is developing a wide variety of assays for clinical diagnosis of infectious diseases which remain inadequately served by current methods," said Stafford O'Kelly, head of Abbott's molecular diagnostics business.
The company has begun to collect specimens and install instruments at its clinical trial sites. PLEX-ID also is expected to meet all the requirements for CE Marking in the European Union by June.