Fear funds discovery

Fortunately, scientific discoveries themselves are neutral, no matter why they got funded. It’s the uses to which a discovery or development is put that imbue it with moral or ethical value.

So even though the government is passing out $4.1 million in SBIR funds for research on a single potential source of anti-terrorist activity–identifying anthrax currently requires days-long lab tests–that will help medical facilities perform tests faster and in greater quantities, the company says the research will eventually prove “useful for key clinical and industrial applications including flu testing and detection of pathogens in food.”

The funding is going to a company called Genomic Profiling Systems Inc. (even the company name evokes thoughts of defensiveness) to “enable prototype development of an automated portable MultiPath(TM) instrument and consumable test cartridges designed for rapid, high capacity, easy to implement emergency diagnostics.” Expected to be significantly faster and more sensitive than standard commercial strip tests, this item could well control the spread of a virus–like keeping an epidemic like bird flu from turning into a pandemic.