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Test Shows Promise in E. Coli Screening

A new test developed by a unit of biotech company Life Technologies has shown success in quickly pinpointing the strain of E. coli involed in a European outbreak that has killed 25 people and sickened more than 2,400 worldwide.

Life Technologies’ Ion Torrent unit introduced the new technology in March that can quickly decode a virus’ genome and track down its origin. Once identified, the test can be used to determine whether a food source contains the pathogen within 10 to 24 hours.

Other traditional testing methods typically took as many as 10 days for results.

The new technology’s low relative cost has spurred demand from many countries, including China and Germany, said Jonathan Rothberg, Ion Torrent’s founder and chief executive officer, in an interview with CNBC.

“As soon as there was an outbreak — while people were dying — we were able to decode this genome and, with Life Technologies, quickly make a test that we can screen the food supply and find the source,” Rothberg said on Wednesday.

Although Rothberg did not address the stock performance of Life Technologies , which posted sales of $3.6 billion in 2010, or its financial outlook.

However, he said that the demand for genome-sequencing technology is not merely limited to viral outbreaks.

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