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Innovative concept for detection and identification of biological toxins


OBJECTIVE: Design, develop and demonstrate concepts that will provide ability to detect and discriminate among various biological toxins that are identified threat agents. Particular emphasis is on disposable, low cost devices suited to in-field application. The solution should overcome limitations of present immunoassay-based detection schemes. DESCRIPTION: The concept is intended to provide means that help identify and further avoid individual"s exposure to select threat agents and identify contaminated materials. A specific interest is the identification of plant-derived toxins such as ricin. Ricin and related molecules are classic biological warfare agents as well as common threats delivered in rouge terror attacks via contaminated mail or other crude dissemination methods. The DoD, along with other government and civilian operations, require the ability to continuously monitor for general threats and then rapidly screen and identify threat and risk when a primary monitor is triggered. A cost-effective and reliable primary screen for biological toxin threats that can be used for field tests and may be integrated in fixed, continuous monitoring platforms is a highly desirable technology. Samples that trigger preliminary screen could then be passed to more precise and complex assessments to confirm and identify threat. The research is expected to develop materials which, will selectively interact and allow presumptive identification of biologically-derived toxins. Contemporary advances in biotechnology and materials science provide many approaches to integrate biological processes into sensor, forensic, and diagnostic processes. The proposed work should take advantage of current state-of-art methodologies to develop materials concepts that allow presumptive identification of threat agents and are versatile enough for application in hand-held portable test-kits as well as high-throughput, continuously operating monitors. The ideal design will be low cost and will readily integrate with commercial-off-the-shelf electronic equipment. The readout should be easy to interpret, and amenable to potentially monitor for numerous toxins simultaneously. The sensing modality will provide alternatives to existing antibody-based sensing and screening technologies. PHASE I: Combine innovative approaches for modification/functionalization of readily available materials for identification of plant-derived toxins. Incorporate material within assay to rigorously evaluate concept for proof-of-principle. Demonstrate proof of principle in a controlled laboratory environment. Demonstration will successfully detect and presumptively identify a single threat agent simulant and discriminate from a related molecule in laboratory sample. Detection sensitivity must be competitive with existing surface plasmon resonance-based technologies (threshold 200 ng/mL). PHASE II: Develop and demonstrate a hand-held prototype device that incorporates sensor recognition materials that can be tested in a relevant environment. The material may be further optimized to monitor or screen for multiple threats of concern simultaneously by incorporating multiplex concept. The concept prototype will maintain selectivity for defined toxins within complex environmental samples (e.g., surface waters, dust, household chemicals, foodstuff). The system should incorporate materials that simultaneously monitor for 3 or more threat agents and maintain sensitivity (threshold 200 ng/mL). PHASE III: The technology developed under this effort includes development for dual use applications in military and civilian areas related to operation, primary threat, and environmental monitoring.
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