Todd Ritter, director of Idaho Technology

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, October 12, 2001.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Welcome back, everybody. You have probably never heard of this company before, but I know you'll be fascinated by what it does. It's a little company called Idaho Technology and it makes a little machine that's actually about the size of a small suitcase that can identify biological agents and diseases in the air within about 30 seconds: everything from the flu and food poisoning to smallpox and anthrax.

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The R.A.P.I.D. Machine, as it's been called, has been a hot-selling item since September 11th and the phone calls are coming in faster than the employees can build them.

Joining me now from Salt Lake City is Todd Ritter. Todd is the director of Idaho Technology.

Mr. Ritter, thank you for coming.


CAVUTO: This has been around for a while, Todd?

RITTER: Yes, the first R.A.P.I.D. was delivered to the military in August of 1998.

CAVUTO: So how much does one of these sell for?

RITTER: Around $60,000.

CAVUTO: OK. And what does it do?

RITTER: What it does is it takes unknown genetic material and identifies it as either, you know, whatever the bacteria or virus we're looking for. It does it in about 30 minutes. It does it through a process called polymerase chain reaction.

CAVUTO: So, if there's something wrong or foul in the air, it will quickly found out what in a half a minute.

RITTER: Well, you take an air sample or a water sample or a clinical sample or a scraping of some sort, you do some minor preparation steps, you add the reagent, and then you can test for the unknowns. That's the way it works, yes.

CAVUTO: So let's say you were in NBC News offices, where this woman had apparently taken on anthrax.

RITTER: Uh-huh.

CAVUTO: Would it have detected that anthrax in that office, let's say if you open it up near her desk? I mean, would it have picked that up?

RITTER: We would have been able to pick up, if the anthrax were present on her skin or on a desktop or a computer top, we would have been able to use a swab, as I said, and then put it on a device and identify it in under 30 minutes, yes.

CAVUTO: But the fact that this was just at her particular work station, possibly -- we don't know yet...

RITTER: Right.

CAVUTO: I mean, let's say NBC employees were nervous, Fox employees were nervous, anyone's nervous...

RITTER: Right.

CAVUTO: ... and they say, you know, Todd, come on and test our air here, you couldn't automatically find that. I mean, it would be like finding a needle in a haystack.


RITTER: There's devices out there. LARES Corporation has a device called the SpinCon that collects air, and what we do is we take the sample off of that and run it on the R.A.P.I.D.. And that sucks about 500 liters of air a minute through its system. So we get a pretty good representation of the facility based on that, and then we would take that sample and identify it with the R.A.P.I.D..

CAVUTO: Your, not surprisingly, has picked up measurably as we take a look at a lot of these anthrax searches that continue in Florida as we speak.

RITTER: Right.

CAVUTO: I imagine business is very strong.

RITTER: Business is very strong. We're getting a lot of our larger customers asking us to expedite orders. For example, orders that were supposed to be spread out over two years or 18 months we're now being asked to deliver in about a month or six weeks. So...

CAVUTO: Can you keep up with that demand?

RITTER: ... you can say we're pretty busy.

They're pretty understanding. They're willing to invest the money up front to help us get through this time. But we're pretty busy, as you can imagine.

CAVUTO: But you know, I always wonder is this a good issue for corporations to consider when there might be other agents that you might not be able to detect? Or am I wrong?

RITTER: Well, we have a great research-and-development department at Idaho Technology, so we do everything in house. We also do the chemistry that you need to make the test. So we have about 35 agents you can identify on the R.A.P.I.D.. It's not just anthrax. We have plague and tularemia as well as standard food diseases, salmonella, shigella, and a bunch of other endemic diseases.

CAVUTO: From a guy who looks at this sort of stuff, what did you think when you heard the NBC anthrax news?

RITTER: I don't know all the epidemiology. Being a scientist I like to look at all the facts. I think it's important for us to realize that the laboratory data that we're getting out of the machines like the R.A.P.I.D. are just a piece of information that adds to the bigger picture.

Now granted, they're a very important piece that can direct investigations and treatments. But you need the whole pictures, and as a scientist and a former military officer, I'm not quick to judge. I like to look at the whole picture and do exactly what we're doing now.

CAVUTO: All right, Todd Ritter, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

RITTER: You're welcome.

CAVUTO: And Mr. Ritter is the director of Idaho Technology, very much in the news these days.

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