Ontera Awarded ~$1M Contract from IARPA for Zika Genotyping Test

Test will enable fast quarantine of those infected with the most
virulent and detrimental strains

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#infectiousdisease–Ontera Inc., the leader in silicon-based nanopore diagnostics, announced
today that the company has received a $982,593 contract from
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), part of the
Office of the Director of National Intelligence that invests in research
and innovative technologies to strengthen national security. The funding
will support Ontera’s development of a genotyping test to enable fast
and accurate diagnosis of individuals infected with Zika virus.

There is a critical need for Zika diagnostics to guide front-line
clinicians with point-of-care data on infection after possible exposure
and the window of susceptibility to birth defects. This testing is
especially needed in resource-poor countries and for tracking epidemic
transmission points to guard against a pandemic spread.

Ontera’s platform enables field-deployable molecular confirmatory
diagnostics testing as detecting the viral nucleic acid and specific
viral variants is recognized as the most sensitive and specific method
for establishing Zika infection and for identifying a particular strain.

“By providing nucleic acid testing in the field, as opposed to lateral
flow triage tests that only detect antibody proteins, Ontera abrogates
the need for sending samples to a lab for confirmatory testing. This
aids disease management by eliminating a costly and time-consuming
step,” said Trevor Morin, Chief Scientific Officer of Ontera.
“Importantly, by also providing genotyping information, we can quickly
assess virulence of the pathogen, and even geographically track strains
to determine country or region of origin, thereby allowing efficient
disease containment.”

Ontera’s platform is based on silicon-nanopore, chip-based sensors and,
unlike other molecular diagnostics platforms, it does not require a
laboratory. The technology is portable and durable enough to work in the
field, including extreme environments, with minimal hands-on time or
training required. Ontera’s first Zika test will include genotyping
information to identify people infected with a Zika gene variant
associated with microcephaly, something that is not possible with
protein-based tests. Receiving results in minutes at the point of
testing will provide better control of localized outbreaks.

“Rapid infectious disease detection and monitoring are key applications
for our technology platform, and we are delighted to receive this
significant investment from IARPA to bring a portable test for Zika
virus management to the global health community,” said Murielle
Thinard-McLane, Chief Executive Officer of Ontera. “The ability to
widely deploy our platform in remote settings will expand access to
state-of-the-art molecular diagnostics for optimal control of outbreaks.”

In a recent publication in PLOS
, Ontera’s technology was compared to other platforms for
infectious disease testing in low-resource settings through a project
funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ontera’s platform
(referred to by the company’s previous name, Two Pore Guys), had
superior sensitivity and turnaround time, two critical metrics for
success of infectious disease tests. Ontera currently has a
$2.8M grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
to develop
a sensitive, low-cost diagnostic test for tuberculosis for low-resource

About Ontera

Ontera was founded with the idea that better information is needed to
enhance human and environmental health in a sustainable way. The company
aims to revolutionize diagnostics with its single-molecule detection and
genome analysis platforms based on proprietary biochemistry and silicon
nanopore chip-based sensors. These platforms will bring next-generation
molecular diagnostics closer to the point of need, anywhere on earth.
For more information, visit www.ontera.bio.


For Ontera:
Nicole Litchfield
Bioscribe, Inc.