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Razor cuts biothreat testing time

New PCR process promises quick on scene biothreat analysis.

Idaho Technology

The question of why you opened the hand-addressed, over-stamped envelope in the first place can wait; let's deal with the white powder that spilled out on your desk.

And for that we turn to an 8-pound, battery powered polymerase chain reaction (PCR) device called the Razor. New from Idaho Technology, the Razor can analyze up to 12 samples of suspected biohazard material, including anthrax, in less than half an hour.

Described as the "gold standard" of infectious disease diagnoses, the PCR process works by exponentially amplifying DNA via enzymatic replication. The Razor streamlines that process by eliminating centrifugation and pipettes (those vacuum things that draw up and dispense liquid) and simplifying the required temperature cycle. These advances allow on-the-scene pathogen detection, and it's a cinch to figure out what's on your desk now that plenty of potential contagions have been cataloged.

Although his handheld, "field-hardened" instrument is designed primarily for first responders such as police, fire departments and homeland security types, nothing says a well equipped start-up shouldn't have one too. (It'll go well right there next to the foosball.) However, they cost about $35,000 apiece, so you may have to take up a collection around the office.