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Close up of disease.

Battelle Life Sciences Research CRO+ Today

October 2015 - Issue 2

New Multiplex Molecular Assay Screens for Dozens of Targets

Researchers at Battelle have developed a multiplex molecular assay that screens for up to 60 different pathogens. The two-panel assay offers the broadest PCR-based molecular multiplex capacity currently available, significantly reducing the time and costs of testing for multiple pathogens.

Most PCR-based assays test for one or a handful of pathogen species at a time. The new test uses two assay panels that together screen for 60 different pathogens in human, animal or environmental (soil and water) samples. The first panel is focused on febrile illnesses such as Ebola, dengue virus and bacillus anthracis (anthrax). The second panel tests for vector-born pathogens such as anaplasma, babesia and rickettsia, all tick-borne diseases. The same development method could be applied to create other broad multiplex assays for different types of pathogens. 

Multiplex molecular assays streamline laboratory processes and increase the amount of information that you can get with the same amount of work. Instead of conducting 60 individual assays, laboratory workers can now simply run two panels to screen for dozens of pathogens at once. However, developing multiplex molecular assays that are both sensitive and specific enough to pinpoint this many species in a single panel is a significant bioinformatics challenge. Most multiplex PCR-based assays available on the market today test for a dozen or fewer pathogens at a time.

Researchers at Battelle apply advanced bioinformatic and genomic methods to develop customized individual and multiplex molecular assays for a wide variety of applications, from medical screening to environmental research. They can develop custom molecular assays for any pathogen of interest. They also perform characterization and validation studies to help clients understand the limits of detection and how the assay will perform under different parameters.

By solving the technical challenges around broad multiplex molecular assays, researchers have now opened up new opportunities to further streamline laboratory processes and reduce the time required to identify pathogen species. They can now apply this capability to develop additional multiplex assays around different pathogens of interest, depending on the needs of each client.