Response Biomedical Commercially Launches RAMP Pox Test for Environmental Detection of Smallpox

VANCOUVER -- Response Biomedical Corp. announces the commercial launch of the RAMP Pox Test, the first rapid on-site environmental test capable of detecting orthopox viruses including smallpox, one of the most devastating diseases known to humanity according to the World Health Organization.

Smallpox is an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus, a member of the genus Orthopoxvirus. There is no effective treatment for smallpox disease, and the only prevention is vaccination. The vaccine is made from a live orthopox virus called vaccinia, which is closely related to variola but does not cause smallpox.

Live vaccinia was used in the development and evaluation of the RAMP Pox Test as variola virus is not readily available, and these viruses are antigenically similar. The market-ready orthopox test has a reliable detection level of 100,000 viral particles (3.6 nanograms) per swab. Furthermore, the RAMP Pox Test was also shown to recognize monkeypox and cowpox, the only orthopox viruses in addition to variola and vaccinia known to cause human infection.

"Based on the strength of our RAMP tests for anthrax, ricin and botulinum toxin, we were encouraged by first responders and leading researchers to develop a test for smallpox on the RAMP platform," says Bill Radvak, president and CEO. "Given the urgent need, we are confident the RAMP Pox Test will soon become an invaluable screening tool."

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers even one confirmed case of smallpox to constitute a public health emergency, and to our knowledge, RAMP is the world's first rapid on-site detection system capable of identifying smallpox," adds Radvak. "In keeping with our commitment to validate and enhance the performance of our technology, we will provide our RAMP System to any qualified government body for independent science-based evaluation."

Although smallpox had been eradicated after a worldwide vaccination program, in the aftermath of the events of September of 2001, there is heightened concern that the variola virus might be used as an agent of bioterrorism. In December of 2002, President George W. Bush announced a plan to protect against the threat of smallpox attack by hostile groups or governments. Under the plan, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working with state and local governments to form volunteer Smallpox Response Teams who can provide critical services in the event of a smallpox attack.

RAMP Systems have been sold in Canada, the US, Japan, Italy, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Customers include UN biological weapons inspectors, the US Air Force and Health Canada. In addition to nine distribution partners in the U.S., the company has marketing partners in Israel, Germany, Italy, Ireland, New Zealand, Korea, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. RAMP Systems are also being used in major U.S. markets including New York, Chicago, Orlando, West Palm Beach and Houston.

Response Biomedical develops, manufactures and markets rapid on-site RAMP tests for clinical and biodefense applications providing reliable information in minutes, when and where it is needed. The RAMP System consists of a portable fluorescent Reader and single-use, disposable test cartridges. In biodefense, RAMP tests are also commercially available for detecting anthrax, ricin and botulinum toxin. The company is currently exploring development opportunities in infectious diseases including rapid tests for SARS and West Nile Virus.

In independent evaluations conducted by the Canadian Department of National Defence (DRDC-Suffield) and Maryland State Department of Health, the RAMP Anthrax Test was 100 percent reliable in detecting B. anthracis at or above 4,000 spores, with greater than 99 percent confidence in specificity.

No competing technology purports to have sufficient sensitivity to detect the presence of anthrax below 100,000 spores. The 10,000 spore level has been commonly used to define a potentially infectious dose of anthrax by the CDC.

Source: Response Biomedical Corp.