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Handheld Device Detects Anthrax With Accuracy, Reliability

June 25, 2009

Provides first responders with a simple and reliable tool to help quickly distinguish public health emergencies from mere nuisances

Veritide Ltd., a developer of innovative biological identification and detection solutions, today reported that new independent data to be presented at the Biodetection Technologies 2009 conference confirm the exceptional accuracy of its Ceekerâ“¢ (pronounced “seeker”) portable bacterial detection device in discriminating between anthrax spores and similar-looking hoax substances. The data show that in over two weeks of testing at the Midwest Research Institute in Florida, the company’s Ceeker scanner accurately identified 100% of the anthrax samples used and was correct in 95% of tests involving hoax substances. These test results are consistent with similar results produced last year by a New Zealand forensic testing agency, Environmental Science and Research (ESR).

“We knew that our innovative Ceeker is capable of producing outstanding results in distinguishing between anthrax and look-alike hoax substances, and now we have definitive data confirming its performance,” said Andrew Rudge, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Veritide. “Even better, these extraordinary results were generated by a small portable handheld system that requires no special skills or training to operate and that can produce a result within minutes, enabling first responders to rapidly determine whether the situation is a nuisance or a major threat to public health.”

The Ceeker employs optical detection technology developed at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury. It uses ultraviolet light and special algorithms to detect bacterial spores and provides test results within minutes, without the need for wet chemistry or analytic processes that can be difficult to handle in the field. The Ceeker is capable of producing test results from very small amounts of sample and does not consume or destroy the sample being tested, allowing it to be re-analyzed later for forensic applications.

In contrast, existing detection approaches require longer and more complex processing to distinguish anthrax from other substances (between 30 minutes and three days), their accuracy is inferior to the Ceeker and the sample is typically destroyed during testing.

The new data will be presented on June 26, 2009 at Biodetection Technologies 2009 by Professor Lou Reinisch, an inventor of the Ceeker technology and Professor of Physics and Department Head at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Prof. Reinisch noted, “It is gratifying to present these outstanding results from a system that has so much potential to reduce the large costs and losses in productivity and peace of mind caused by our current inability to easily distinguish between anthrax spores and harmless white powder. These new data definitively confirm the validity of the detection concepts underlying the Ceeker and should help fuel its wider use among such first responders as fire and police departments, HazMat teams, postal services, port and airport security, and defense and military authorities.”

John Delaney is Captain, Arlington County, Virginia Fire Department and Manager, National Medical Response Team-National Capital Region, home to the Pentagon and many other major U.S. government and corporate facilities. Capt. Delaney commented, “With responsibility for helping to ensure the safety of the hundreds of thousands of people who live and work in the Capital Region, my department welcomes the availability of technologically advanced solutions that enhance our ability to carry out our mission. The Veritide Ceeker is an excellent example””it is extremely versatile, easy-to-use and fast””results are ready in minutes. Most importantly, the new test data being presented this week confirm that the Ceeker is very reliable, enabling front-line decision makers to rapidly and confidently validate initial threat assessments that can ultimately have a far-reaching impact on public safety and well-being. The National Capital Region generally receives on average one alert a day or more regarding the potential presence of anthrax, so this device can only enhance our first responder capabilities and accuracy.”

The Ceeker has also been previously validated by forensic laboratory ESR, which conducted multiple rounds of testing using anthrax simulants and hoax substances. The successful U.S. test results have triggered significant sales from U.S. customers who had pre-ordered the Ceeker but were waiting for positive direct anthrax testing results before proceeding.

Dr. Rudge added, “Achieving these results represents a significant milestone and positions Veritide as the first company to offer proven technology capable of accurately and reliably detecting lethal anthrax spores, and to do so without destroying the sample. These new testing results are expected to unlock large potential markets for Veritide in North America and around the globe. We currently are in the process of identifying potential partners and additional investors to ensure this important technology is available worldwide.”

Image Caption: Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph shows splenic tissue from a monkey with inhalational anthrax; featured are rod-shaped bacilli (yellow) and an erythrocyte (red). Courtesy NIH

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