After the recent Obama ricin letters incident, public awareness surrounding biological threats has definitely heightened and more than before, there is a need for rapid, accurate testing in the field to protect against the growing number of potential bio hazards.

Meet Firefly
PositiveID Corporation (OTCBB: PSID) recently announced they are developing the Firefly Dx system, a new device intended to provide fast, accurate bio-threat detection. Firefly is a hand-held pathogen detection system designed to purify and analyze a sample and deliver test results in less than thirty minutes. The device will employ single-use, disposable cartridges with tracking RFID chips. Firefly will process data in real time which data can then be sent via wireless communication to SMART phones or personal computers with a specialized, mobile application and cloud-based data sharing and storage.

The Brilliance of Firefly
Firefly aims to combine PositiveID’s patented molecular diagnostic technology found in its M-BAND airborne bio-threat detector with the Dragonfly Rapid MDx Cartridge-based diagnostic system into a portable, handheld device, so it can be used practically anywhere and with minimal training.

Firefly Will Find It
Firefly is expected to be able to identify virtually any biological agent once the Company has the specific assay developed, including the identification of various forms of Influenza, E. coli, HPV, among other things. In addition, it can also detect biological warfar agents (Ba, Yp, Ft) and antibiotic resistant bacteria (MRSA). Firefly is expected to prove useful for a number of applications from detecting environmental bacteria and antibiotic-resistant bacteria to bio-threat agents and even for use in forensic science. The incorporated, multiplex polymerase chain reaction (“PCR”) assay will be designed to test for multiple, user-defined targets, all from a single sample.

Plus, Firefly uses TaqMan®-based PCR assays and real-time detection, which means it will be able to measure altered gene expression levels like those found in radiation exposure and cancer.

Multiple Sample Types
Not only will Firefly test for numerous pathogens, but it also will be designed to process a variety of sample types such as whole blood, nasal swabs, buccal (cheek) swabs, urine and environmental field samples. Firefly is expected to improve the ease of testing by accepting a multitude of different sample types.

Threats of the Future
Luckily, because our world changes, this state-of-the-art device is being designed to adapt to the future. Firefly can be updated with new pre-programmed disposable cartridges that detect other pathogens. The cartridge design also adds the ability for Firefly to accept new sample types, such as stool, small arthropod and plant materials.

Who Needs Firefly
Most of the currently-available, competing technologies are far more expensive, more difficult to setup and use, and frequently require a laboratory or clinic for processing. Because of this, timely monitoring of potentially catastrophic biological events is near impossible. By providing accurate results in just minutes, Firefly could drastically change bio-threat response times, ultimately reducing loss of life. Because of the added advantages of the Firefly Dx system, it is perfect for military field deployments, remote areas with limited access to healthcare, as well as border locations. Employing this type of a device in these areas could significantly increase our ability to identify and protect against dangerous biological organisms.

Firefly Could Improve Response Time
Because Firefly provides a low cost and self-contained testing system in a hand-held, portable and battery-powered device, potential bio-threats can be managed more quickly. By requiring less time and effort to track the initial spread of a particular disease across different geographic areas, more attention can be focused on areas where the disease is predicted to spread much faster. Decisions can be implemented more rapidly than under current methods, since Firefly is expected to process and deliver data so much faster. Results are expected to be delivered in thirty minutes or less, depending on the assay being tested.

The device is projected to cost $5,000 (USD) per unit at high volumes, while the estimated cost per test is only $5 to $20 (USD) depending on the assay and the level of multiplexing. This low-cost device is affordable enough that it will be a realistic solution for many more operations that cannot afford other bio-threat systems available today.

But, Is the Threat Real?
On April 17, 2013, a letter addressed to President Obama was intercepted and tested positive for ricin. This assassination attempt also included two additional letters mailed to a senator and a judge. Although none of the letters reached their intended targets, the threat of terrorism continues. Faster and effective testing solutions are needed more than ever before.

As PositiveID Corporation Chairman and CEO William J. Caragol said, “Whether natural or man-made, an invasive disease outbreak without proper monitoring or detection, which therefore results in less effective countermeasures, can seriously affect the health and commercial stability of livestock or human populations on a large scale.”

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