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A Novel, Field-Deployable, Biomimetic Narcotics Detector for the Identification of Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Opioids

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R41DA053079-01
Agency Tracking Number: R41DA053079
Amount: $252,131.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: NIDA
Solicitation Number: DA19-020
Solicitation Year: 2019
Award Year: 2020
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2020-09-15
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-09-14
Small Business Information
Carlsbad, CA 92011-1575
United States
DUNS: 128893463
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (760) 268-0083
Business Contact
Phone: (760) 268-0083
Research Institution
AUSTIN, TX 78759-5316
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

AbstractThe alarming scope of the rapidly growing opioid epidemic has commanded the nation’s attention. The White
House’s Council of Economic Advisers estimates that in 2015, the economic cost of the opioid crisis was over
$504.0 billion (2.8% of GDP); and it is only expected to continue rising. Today, 1 in 5 fatalities amongst young
adults is opioid related; with half a million fatal overdoses projected over the next decade. Due to the high cost
in lives, dollars associated with non-fatal overdosing, and expenditures for treating addiction, there is broad
acknowledgement of an urgent societal need for resources to help mitigate the dangers of the opioid epidemic.At the epicenter of the most lethal drug crisis in American history is the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The recent
spike in opioid deaths is largely attributed to the illicit use of fentanyl as an inexpensive method to augment the
strength of heroin. As fentanyl is 100x more potent than morphine with a lethal dose of 3 mg, its unregulated use
has proven extremely dangerous. Underscoring the risks posed by use and/or handling of fentanyl is the fact that
it is readily absorbed into the human body via inhalation, injection, ingestion, contact with mucous membranes,
and transdermal transmission. The dangers of fentanyl extend well beyond drug users, however. First
responders, in particular, face unique occupational hazards when called to situations where they may be exposed
to synthetic opioids. Given its facile absorption into the body, even incidental exposures to extremely small
quantities of fentanyl can cause serious health effects. Therefore, the ability for first responders to quickly and
accurately determine the identity of an unknown powder could mean the difference between life and death.Seacoast Science, Inc. (Seacoast) in collaboration with Professors Nathaniel Lynd and Feng Zhang (UT
Austin) and Professor Erik Berda (UNH), jointly propose the development of a low-cost, handheld, biomimetic
narcotics detector that is comparable in accuracy and resolution to high-end portable Raman spectrometers. The
proposed technology is based on the use of smart, bioinspired nanomaterials as chemical transducers in the
proprietary, low-power, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) sensor platforms engineered at Seacoast.
The integration of these nanotechnologies provides an innovative roadmap toward the advent of an accurate
handheld narcotics detector with a price that justifies rapid, broadscale emplacement amongst first responders.This proposal describes the development of a suite of modular, biomimetic polymers rationally programmed
to detect a panel of synthetic opioids with high fidelity. The polymers will be deposited onto MEMS sensors and
evaluated in a controlled environmental chamber for responsiveness to a selected suite of fentanyl derivatives
and cutting agents. A range of opioid concentrations will be screened, mapped against MEMS resistance and
capacitance measurements, and analyzed to develop proprietary chemometric pattern recognition algorithms
for each molecular target. This sensing platform will provide an accurate and affordable handheld narcotics
detector for rapid diagnostics of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.Project NarrativeDue to the high cost in lives, dollars associated with non-fatal over dosing, and increased expenditures for
treating addiction, there is broad acknowledgement of an urgent societal need for resources to help mitigate the
dangers of synthetic opioids. Seacoast Science, Inc. in collaboration with Professor Erik Berda of UNH and
Professors Nathaniel Lynd and Feng Zhang of UT Austin propose the co-development of a field-deployable
biomimetic narcotics detector for the real-time, point-of-use, identification of fentanyl and other synthetic
opioids. The advent of an affordable narcotics detector for rapid diagnostics of unknown powders will be a highly
useful tool for first responders, helping to safeguard their occupational health and safety in their efforts to combat
the national opioid crisis.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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