The National Institutes of Health is funding the development of a medical instrument that will quickly detect biothreat agents, including anthrax, ricin and botulinum as well as infectious diseases. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are creating the first of its kind point-of-care device that could be used in emergency rooms during a bioterrorism incident. To design the device, which will be able to detect a broader range of toxins and bacterial agents than is currently possible, the $4 million project will include comprehensive testing with animal samples. According to Anup Singh, senior manager, Sandia biological science and technology group, this differentiates the work on this device, because toxins may behave differently in live animals and humans than in blood samples.
Sandia scientists will be collaborating with researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Regional Research Center, which will provide insights into toxins and diseases at animal laboratory facilities. Bio-Rad, which manufactures and distributes devices and laboratory technologies, is consulting on the project to evaluate product development, assist with manufacturers’ criteria and provide feedback when a prototype is built.
“We want dual-use devices that combat both man-made and nature-made problems,” Singh says. “We’re not just going to wait for the next anthrax letter incident to happen for our devices to be used and tested; we want them to be useful for other things as well, like infectious diseases.”