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A breath test could be next in war on Ebola

Funding to further Ancon Medical's Nanoparticle Biomarker Tagging device, could cut screening time down to just three minutes or less.

If Ancon Medical has anything to say about it, healthcare workers will have a new way to fight the war on Ebola – a breath test.

The Minnesota-based company is looking to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's New Interventions for Global Health program, which awards up to $10 million for technology that can prevent the spread of infectious diseases, to help fund new technology that could screen for Ebola, and a host of diseases, within minutes, simply by testing a person's breath.

Ancon Medical would like to use the grant funding to further develop its Nanoparticle Biomarker Tagging (NBT) device, a revolutionary technology that provides one of the most sensitive and non-invasive methods to screen for diseases.

Funding will also be used to find the Ebola "biomarker," the molecular signature that will alert NBT to the presence of the virus. With funding, researchers believe they could isolate the Ebola biomarker in two months, or less.

The current prototype is about the size of a suitcase, but with further development, it can be reduced to the size of a toaster, complete with a touch screen display and cloud connectivity that can transmit important data about an array of infectious diseases.

"With viruses like Ebola, not only could Ancon Medical's NBT technology be the difference between life and death, it could make a crucial difference in preventing and controlling an outbreak," said Wesley Baker, President of Ancon Medical.

NBT uses a technique that is similar to ultra-fast gas chromatography, a laboratory method for breaking down chemicals through vaporization. However, current gas chromatography technology is bulky, making it useful only in laboratory settings, while also requiring hours or days to produce results. NBT is portable and can deliver results in 15 minutes. Ancon Medical researchers believe further development can bring the screening time down to just three minutes or less.

In addition to the Gates Foundation grant, Ancon Medical plans pursue other government and private-sector funding opportunities to promote development of NBT technology.

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