VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- The 30th Medical Group has advanced their testing capability for biological agents at Vandenberg Air Force Base with a new diagnostic system.
The new capability lies with Vandenberg’s acquisition of the Next Generation Diagnostic System in August 2018. The NGDS will be phasing out the Joint Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic System (JBAIDS), a previous system used by the military, and aims to provide faster, more powerful processing of unknown biological agents.
“I’ve been working in lab services since the JBAIDS system was implemented around 2008,” said Tech. Sgt. Jamie Gutierrez, 30th Medical Group NCOIC of clinical laboratory services. “With that system we could only run two to three target agents from one sample, and processing could take around 3 to 4 hours, with another hour added to run the sample on the analyzer. With the NGDS, we can now process dozens of target agents all from one sample, and get the results in under an hour.”
That increase in speed and efficiency can be critical when determining potential biological threats, which is why the Department of Defense has been upgrading to the NGDS across all branches according to Staff Sgt. Atiba Timley, 30th MDG medical laboratory technician.
“They’ve been fielding the NGDS since 2016,” said Timley. “Some places don’t have the capability yet, but they are making sure that eventually everyone gets them. The intention is that this system will completely replace JBAIDS.”
The new kit has been streamlined to be utilized down range, operating from a rugged $10K, state-of-the-art laptop computer designed for the field. The testing panels used to process samples come in small, vacuum-sealed canisters, for quick plug-and-play operation during sample testing.
“If you can identify what something is particularly, something like Anthrax, then you can give treatment a lot quicker,” said Gutierrez. “As someone who was trained on the JBAIDS system, I can appreciate that the NGDS does more with less, and it will definitely cut down on costs. We no longer need a separate clean and dirty area, where processing is done by hand to break down a sample and get the DNA, in which cross-contamination is a huge factor. Now the machine does it all for you - the sample goes right to where all the targets are and starts going through its replication process to see what item it might be, if anything.”
The NGDS will provide the 30th Medical Group and Vandenberg’s Western Range with a new layer of response readiness now and in the future.
“Thankfully, I’ve never had to process a live sample in a live scenario during my career, but we stay proficient in our training, as we do with anything else in the military.” Said Gutierrez. “This is an amazing new technology to have at the base and we want to ensure leadership knows our capabilities, so they can utilize the 30th MDG Laboratory Biological Detection Team and the NGDS if necessary."