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KNOXVILLE — Researchers from the University of Tennessee are partnering with a local company to help boost the region’s biotechnology industry and aid in their work.

Atom Sciences, based in Oak Ridge, has been awarded a grant for more than $600,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through a small business biodefense program of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

“This is a way UT can help Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley biotechnology companies increase their competitiveness and provide valuable training for our students,” said Jeffrey Becker, UT professor and head of the microbiology department.

The research is focused on developing a way to quickly detect the DNA “fingerprint” carried by all disease-causing agents when an attack occurs.
Potential applications for the research are wide, including foodborne pathogen detection, agricultural and veterinary testing, water testing, and clinical testing.

“Our technique will allow testing for a large number of the fingerprints simultaneously, saving money and precious time in the event of a bioterrorist attack or a natural outbreak,- said Tom Whitaker, president of Atom Sciences. -UT has the facilities and personnel to safely handle the pathogens that will be used in this study. We simply would not be able to complete the work without their contribution.”

The award boosts the Innovation Valley’s biotechnology industry as home to a dozen cutting edge companies.


Jay Mayfield (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu)