W.V. co. creates rapid bioagent identification instrument

A Morgantown, W.V.-based biotechnology firm has created a prototype instrument that is able to rapidly identify biological warfare agents.

The Laser Ablation Electrospray Ionizations, LAESI, instrument, developed by Protea Biosciences, Inc., rapidly identifies proteins in tissues, single cells and other biological samples, including blood and urine.


Besides biological warfare agents, the technology can identify counterfeit drugs or tumors during surgery.


"This thing is revolutionary," Stan Hostler, Protea's vice president, told WVGazette.com. "This is something that we literally feel could be at the forefront of one of the biggest industries West Virginia has seen in a long time."


Biowarfare agents, which are all protein based, can be easily identified by the 40 pound machine, which is currently being studied by George Mason University's bio-defense research center for use as a chemical warfare agent identification system.


LAESI was developed by Professor Akos Vertes at George Washington University. Protea obtained the exclusive worldwide license to the technology and will pay the university five to seven percent of net revenue.


Vertes is testing LAESI at his lab in Washington, D.C. Additional units are expected to be developed this summer with the instrument put into use to analyze customers' biological samples by the end of the year.