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  • SpectRx Inc. to Develop Alcohol Sensing System
Jun 2003
NORCROSS, Ga., June 6 -- SpectRx Inc., the Boston University School of Public Health and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles have been awarded a two-year, $1.5 million contract from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to develop a device to continuously monitor alcohol in the human body.

SpectRx will coordinate the development program, which will use the company's laser-based interstitial fluid testing technology. The device is being designed to continuously monitor the presence and level of alcohol in the body and to detect alcohol abuse in people who perform critical job functions, such as airline pilots, or for use in the criminal justice system. Results would be transmitted to a remote monitoring station.

Alcohol levels are currently measured by taking and analyzing a blood sample, or through the use of a Breathalyzer. However, these devices are limited for certain applications because they can only take one measurement at a time and are not able to track changes in bodily alcohol levels continuously over time, SpectRx said. The device under development tests for alcohol in interstitial fluid (ISF), the clear, water-like fluid that surrounds cells in the body. An inexpensive laser painlessly creates four microscopic holes, or micropores, in the outer dead layer of skin through which a stream of ISF is drawn continuously into a patch and tested for alcohol. The micropores are just slightly larger than a human hair, and a self-limiting feature of the laser allows the pores to penetrate only the outer layer of cells.

SpectRx and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles will perform the majority of the work during the first two years, and Boston University School of Public Health will conduct clinical trials. The two-year contract, which is wholly funded by the NIAAA, part of the National Institutes of Health, may be extended for up to three additional years with an additional $2 million.

SpectRx will develop the sensor and adapt its ISF acquisition technology for alcohol measurement. Childrens Hospital Los Angeles will develop the systems necessary for data processing, analysis and integration. Researchers at Boston University School of Public Health will develop and conduct the protocol for validating the alcohol sensor and data collection in the field. If the research and development program is successful, SpectRx will commercialize and market the device.

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