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Kromek extends DARPA deal to develop virus threat system

A technology firm known for helping thwart terror plots has secured a deal worth more than £4 million to further develop a system capable of identifying virus threats.

Kromek has been awarded a contract extension by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – an agency of the US Department of Defense – to extend its focus on mobile bio-surveillance apparatus.

Bosses at company, based on Sedgefield’s NETPark, say its miniaturised system will detect viruses and bacteria and be placed on vehicles to identify threats.

They say the unmanned kit will have capacity to run all day and be suitable for use in high footfall areas, such as hospitals and airports.

The work comes after Kromek completed the base period of a previously-announced deal with DARPA to develop a vehicle-mounted biological-threat identifier.

The total contract period runs until June 2021.

Dr Arnab Basu, Kromek chief executive, said: “We are delighted to be awarded this extension by DARPA.

“The technology developed under this programme is capable of sample collection to comprehensive analysis of threats present in air in an autonomous manner.

“By sequencing the genetic code, the device can not only identify threat pathogens, but also be used to identify the particular strain to aid triage and treatment selection, in addition to being able to track mutations of the pathogen.

“As the system can be vehicle mounted or placed in high footfall areas, such as hospitals and airports, the location where the sample is collected can be mapped to a GPS position.

“The transfer of data to a central server allows a picture of pathogen levels across a city to be built up enabling decision makers to react rapidly to any evolving pathogenic threat.”

Kromek, a Durham University spin-out company, is well known for its flagship D3S family of products, which can identify terror threats including ‘dirty bombs.’

Its portfolio also includes medical sector equipment, which is used to diagnose and treat conditions such as osteoporosis, and airport security scanners.