SBIR Phase I: Nanoparticle Sensor for Detection of E. coli in Real-time and Real-world Conditions
This SBIR Phase I project will develop a passive sensor for real-time detection of E. coli without concentration steps. It is based on the change in conductivity which would occur when the bacterium is captured by peptidoglycans specific to that strain which have been immobilized on two closely-separated gold electrodes. A unique aspect of this work is the use of glycoligands as the sensing element. Advantages include instantaneous responses that are more robust and stable than antibodies and peptides; and are not subject to antigenic drift, greater sensitivity (as glycan-based ligands are smaller than antibodies, hence coverage on the sensor surface can be more dense), and linkage with virulence (as binding to glycan receptors in the host is required for virulence). A prototype of the sensor has already been developed for the Air Force, using peptides as the capture ligands, but it needs to be miniaturized.
The broader/commercial impact of the proposed project will be in the monitoring of food and water supplies in real time. Presence of pathogens will be known in time to prevent poisoning from food and water. If successful, this device would be of great assistance to managers of beaches and similar recreational facilities, as well as drinking water treatment plant operators. There would be immediate results of tests to determine the presence of virulent E. coli. The commercial potential for this sensor extends beyond the water industry to include meat production and defense/security. The market for the water industry exceeds $1b annually. The aim is to market the sensor at ~$100 per test, which is competitive for critical health-based applications. The key benefit of the innovation lies in the fact that this solution would provide real-time detection, while the quickest detection system on the market today takes 4-7 hours to provide alerts.
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