Santa Cruz, Calif. — June 18, 2019 — Ontera Inc., the leader in silicon-based nanopore
diagnostics, announced today that the company has received a $982,593 contract from
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), part of the Office of the Director of
National Intelligence that invests in research and innovative technologies to strengthen national
security. The funding will support Ontera’s development of a genotyping test to enable fast and
accurate diagnosis of individuals infected with Zika virus.
There is a critical need for Zika diagnostics to guide front-line clinicians with point-of-care data
on infection after possible exposure and the window of susceptibility to birth defects. This testing
is especially needed in resource-poor countries and for tracking epidemic transmission points to
guard against a pandemic spread.
Ontera’s platform enables field-deployable molecular confirmatory diagnostics testing as
detecting the viral nucleic acid and specific viral variants is recognized as the most sensitive and
specific method for establishing Zika infection and for identifying a particular strain.
“By providing nucleic acid testing in the field, as opposed to lateral flow triage tests that only
detect antibody proteins, Ontera abrogates the need for sending samples to a lab for
confirmatory testing. This aids disease management by eliminating a costly and time-consuming
step,” said Trevor Morin, Chief Scientific Officer of Ontera. “Importantly, by also providing
genotyping information, we can quickly assess virulence of the pathogen, and even
geographically track strains to determine country or region of origin, thereby allowing efficient
Ontera’s platform is based on silicon-nanopore, chip-based sensors and, unlike other molecular
diagnostics platforms, it does not require a laboratory. The technology is portable and durable
enough to work in the field, including extreme environments, with minimal hands-on time or
training required. Ontera’s first Zika test will include genotyping information to identify people
infected with a Zika gene variant associated with microcephaly, something that is not possible
with protein-based tests. Receiving results in minutes at the point of testing will provide better
control of localized outbreaks.
“Rapid infectious disease detection and monitoring are key applications for our technology
platform, and we are delighted to receive this significant investment from IARPA to bring a
portable test for Zika virus management to the global health community,” said Murielle
Thinard-McLane, Chief Executive Officer of Ontera. “The ability to widely deploy our platform in
remote settings will expand access to state-of-the-art molecular diagnostics for optimal control
In a recent publication in PLOS One, Ontera’s technology was compared to other platforms for
infectious disease testing in low-resource settings through a project funded by the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation. Ontera’s platform (referred to by the company’s previous name, Two Pore
Guys), had superior sensitivity and turnaround time, two critical metrics for success of infectious
disease tests. Ontera currently has a $2.8M grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to
develop a sensitive, low-cost diagnostic test for tuberculosis for low-resource settings.
Ontera was founded with the idea that better information is needed to enhance human and
environmental health in a sustainable way. The company aims to revolutionize diagnostics with
its single-molecule detection and genome analysis platforms based on proprietary biochemistry
and silicon nanopore chip-based sensors. These platforms will bring next-generation molecular
diagnostics closer to the point of need, anywhere on earth. For more information, visit www.ontera.bio.