GeneCapture announces novel pathogen screening platform

Huntsville, Ala. – A team of biochemists and engineers has demonstrated a completely new process for rapidly determining the genetic signature of a pathogen – a germ causing infection. In less than an hour, this new, patented technique analyzes a human or animal sample – whether it is blood, urine, saliva, or swab – to detect the presence of a broad range of specific bacteria, viruses, or fungi. The disposable test cartridge is about the size of a smartphone. Signature probes for newly discovered or mutated pathogens can be added to the cartridge in just a few days, providing fast intelligence for new epidemics.

CTO Dr. Krishnan Chittur, and VP Paula Koelle explain the biochemical process to a student intern.

“Our team at GeneCapture has combined several cutting-edge technologies into an innovative and rugged solution for a very critical problem we face today – the delay in identifying the source of an infection. During that one-to-three-day turnaround, contagion spreads and the microbes mutate, making conditions for epidemics and antibiotic resistance highly concerning,” said CEO and co-founder Peggy Sammon.  “We want the patient to get a diagnosis within an hour and get on the right medicine right away.”

GeneCapture is located at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, a leading nonprofit research institute that brings together genomic researchers and for-profit businesses under one roof to create an environment for the rapid deployment of solutions. The Institute is located close to The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) campus, where the original idea was conceived and patented. GeneCapture’s CTO Krishnan Chittur, Ph.D., has been working on rapid infection diagnosis since he endured a suspenseful three-day wait to see if his premature baby had pneumonia.

“It turns out she did not have an infection, but we didn’t learn that until after three days of strong antibiotics had coursed through her tiny body.  A few years later, in my lab at UAH, we worked out a fast way to see if an infection was present right away. We knew it was a game-changer.” Dr. Chittur explained.

Dr. Chittur met with entrepreneur Sammon, and together they formed the company, licensed the patent, and assembled a team to turn the idea into a product. The original process took several hours, but after Harvard biochemist, Paula Koelle, refined the steps and perfected the recipe, the company’s prototype now reliably gives results in 45 minutes.

GeneCapture scientist examines a prototype of the test cartridge that will screen for hundreds of pathogens in about 45 minutes.

The technology is based on unique genetic probes that capture the genetic material of the pathogen if it is present.  Hundreds of probes are arranged on a microarray allowing them to make a direct match to a broad selection of pathogens.  An optical scan identifies which probes were activated, resulting in a rapid on-site or wirelessly reported diagnosis.

“From the start, we knew we wanted a simple, rugged, inexpensive product that could be used in remote applications. Our goal is to keep the entire test cost under $20, and we are on a good path to accomplishing that,” said Koelle, vice president of program management.  Our initial work with patient samples shows that the technology is living up to its potential.” Koelle originally met Sammon on the sidelines of a soccer field where their daughters were teammates.

“We have received funding through Alabama Launchpad and a group of visionary angel investors, and we have benefited from the help of several local clinics and the collaborative entrepreneurial environment in Huntsville,” said Sammon.

“Breaking the one-hour barrier, the $20 barrier, and the portability barrier makes this a great market creator,” said Sammon. “We want to get this product in use at doctor’s offices, nursing homes, clinics, field hospitals, airports, and cruise ships – all the places that can react quickly to infectious outbreaks.”

The company is now developing the pre-manufacturing model for clinical studies and submittal to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an expected 510(k) clearance.

About GeneCapture
GeneCaptureInc., a private company, is located on the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology campus in Huntsville, Ala.  The company is developing a rapid point of care diagnostic for detecting infections.  The technology is based on direct RNA signature matching of pathogens in animal and human samples.  The company‘s team includes physicians, clinicians, public health professionals and biotech engineers.  

About HudsonAlpha: HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a nonprofit institute dedicated to developing and applying scientific advances to health, agriculture, learning, and commercialization. Opened in 2008, HudsonAlpha’s vision is to leverage the synergy between discovery, education, medicine, and economic development in genomic sciences to improve the human condition around the globe. The HudsonAlpha biotechnology campus consists of 152 acres nestled within Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second largest research park. The state-of-the-art facilities co-locate nonprofit scientific researchers with entrepreneurs and educators. HudsonAlpha has become a national and international leader in genetics and genomics research and biotech education and includes more than 30 diverse biotech companies on campus. To learn more about HudsonAlpha, visit

GeneCapture Media Contact:
Peggy Sammon

HudsonAlpha Media Contact:
Margetta Thomas