Ambri appointments to boost defence contracts

By Daniella Goldberg
Wednesday, 13 March, 2002


Australian biotechnology company Ambri Ltd has appointed two executives to encourage new backing for the company's biological weapons detection contracts.

Dr Bill Schofield has joined Ambri after 36 years at the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

Ambri's managing director, Dr Joe Shaw, said Schofield had been closely following Ambri's defence project and was very well networked into the world defence forces.

"As well as his tremendous technical ability as a scientist, he is highly respected for his success in realising the commercial possibilities of new technologies," Shaw said.

Byron McAllister will serve as Ambri's vice-president of quality assurance. McAllister has management experience in medical diagnostics and high-tech entrepreneurial corporations on a world scale, the company said.

He will also be responsible for obtaining Food and Drug Administration approval of Ambri's products prior to launch in the US.

Ambri has developed a device that continuously monitors for bio-warfare agents such as anthrax. Sitting on the side of a tank or at an operations site, the device will capture any airborne agent, whether virus or bacteria, from the atmosphere and dissolve it in solution. The device monitors for up to 24 hours and, upon the detection of a certain level of agent, it will radio back to base by remote sensing, sounding an alarm.

"Ambri's biosensor has the potential to detect viruses, bacteria, enzymes, drugs and other chemicals in any fluid so it can not only test human body fluids but also water supplies, air conditioning systems and so on," Shaw said.

"There has been considerable interest in our work since the US terrorist attacks last September."

In a grant that ended last year, the US government backed Ambri with $3.2 million to develop the device. The Australian Department of Defence is continuing to back Ambri, with $220,000 this year, for further development of the product.

"The US defence wants to have a one-stop detection box that tests for up to 10 airborne bacteria and viruses including anthrax, Q fever, tularaemia and plague," said Ambri chief scientist Dr Bruce Cornell.

"The major advantage over other tests is that you do not have to do single measurements of (agents) at specific intervals. In our case it's continuous measurements."

"The Ambri system will be on the market within a few months in Australia and will go into the US in the first quarter of 2003," Shaw said.

"We are bringing the right expertise at the right time."

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