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BioFire Expands in Utah, Readies for Release of Ebola Test

Andrea Smardon
Biofire Diagnostics CEO Randy Rasmussen unveils the plans for a new building to be located next to This Is The Place Heritage Park at the mouth of Emigration Canyon.

BioFire Diagnostics announced its plans Wednesday to double its workforce in Salt Lake City and build a new facility. The announcement comes as the company awaits federal emergency authorization to release a rapid test for Ebola.

One of the founders of Biofire Kirk Ririe began his presentation by announcing that he made his first bomb when he was six years old. Senator Orrin Hatch, Representative Chris Stewart, and other local officials seemed to be listening with curiosity and perhaps some concern, but he reassured them that he didn’t want to hurt anyone.

“It was the sudden release of energy… I love that,” Ririe said with a big grin. “I still love it. I feel like I’m now part of a new kind of explosion, and we’re in it!”

Biofire Diagnostics is a University of Utah spin-off that manufactures and distributes the FilmArray system, a quick way to test for a broad menu of respiratory, blood stream, and gastrointestinal infections. Ririe is the CEO for a smaller arm of the company, Biofire Defense - which has developed a rapid test for Ebola. It was originally designed for military use, and Ririe told KUER that the US military has already used it in Africa. The company is awaiting emergency authorization from the FDA for hospital use, which he says could come in a matter of days.

In the long term, Ririe says the big picture plan is to develop a test for all of the diseases that commonly kill people.

“This is the most crazy, audacious thing, and yet this is the pioneering spirit of Utah,” he says. “This is why we’re here.”

Biofire Diagnostics was recently acquired by the French company BioMerieux. Now the company has outgrown the 6 buildings it occupies in the campus area, and BioMerieux has offered to finance a 55 million dollar building to be located next to This Is The Place Heritage Park. The company expects to double its workforce with another 700 new employees over the next few years.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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