USPS awards deal for biohazard detection

The U.S. Postal Service has awarded Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Security Systems LLC a contract to develop a biohazard detection system to detect potential biological threats at mail facilities.

The $175 million contract extends from January to October 2004 and follows a development and test phase that started in May 2002. By October 2004, mail-sorting facilities nationwide will be equipped with these biohazard detection centers, but Northrop Grumman officials declined to say how many facilities would have them and where they would be located.

The biohazard detection systems use polymerase chain reaction technology to analyze air samples taken from mail sorting equipment. The systems can detect trace levels of DNA from biological agents, such as anthrax, while letters and packages are processed, according to Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor and systems integrator. Other companies involved in the preproduction phases are:

* Smiths Detection, a subsidiary of London-based Smiths Group PLC, which is the bio-suite, or sub-assembly, integrator.

* Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Cepheid, which developed the polymerase chain reaction technology.

* Kansas City, Mo.-based Sceptor Industries Inc., which provided the particle collection and air sampling instrumentation and technology.

* Doylestown, Pa.-based Medical Device Consultants Inc., which provided an automated handling system for test cartridges.

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