Avian flu virus detector on a chip
12 June 2006
Gaithersburg, Md., USA. Biotechnology research and
development company BioWarn, LLC, has combined biochemistry with silicon
chip technology to produce a sensor that can detect pathogens and other
materials using a molecular identity checking system and automatically
transmit the results.
The company has announced that it has successfully
demonstrated the capability to instantaneously detect avian influenza virus
(H5N1), also known as bird flu, using its new SmartSense system.
influenza is a viral disease that is spreading through bird populations
across Asia, Africa, and Europe. The disease is of great concern because if
the virus develops the capacity for human-to-human transmission, it could
spread quickly around the globe.
Unlike other diagnostic and sensor
technologies that take between 20 minutes and 20 hours to work, a SmartSense
detector is a real-time sensor. It uses a microchip to capture the
electronic "signature" produced when the avian flu (H5N1) surface contacts
the sensor. Like a lock and key, this SmartSense detector is triggered only
by the H5N1 target. The detector then automatically transmits the
identifying information to users.
"Today, there are more unseen and
dangerous threats to our health than ever before. Detecting avian flu using
BioWarn's SmartSense system is a major breakthrough," said Dr. James P.
Wade, Jr., Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of BioWarn.
"Using SmartSense, an outbreak of human avian flu can be detected and
isolated in its early stages so that prevention, vaccines, and treatment can
immediately be administered."
"While current techniques require additional
processing, SmartSense detection is direct, positive, and binary, providing
a real-time indication of the presence of a virus such as avian flu on a
molecular level," added Dr. Jeffrey Riggs, President and Chief Operating
Officer of BioWarn. "The SmartSense system instantaneously detects unique
interaction signatures with extremely high reliability, and then wirelessly
transmits the information to the necessary officials."
system has several advantages over current technologies. It is substantially
less susceptible to false-positive and false-negative results than
conventional diagnostics. Using extremely small samples, the system does not
require lab equipment, a lab technician, or special procedures. A SmartSense
device makes remote monitoring possible from anywhere a network reaches
because it has on-board power and integrated network communications.
Because a fully developed SmartSense device will carry all core
functionality on a single microelectronic chip, it will benefit from the
scale economies of semiconductor manufacturing. With this affordability the
SmartSense system brings advanced pathogen detection into the reach of those
who need it the most, such as healthcare, biodefense, and first-responder
The company has also announced that the United States
Patent and Trademark Office has approved for issuance its patent application
for the SmartSense system. The patent covers key features of the system,
including the integration of biochemistry and microelectronics to provide
real-time alerts to the presence of pathogens. In addition to the H5N1
strain of avian flu, potential targets include HIV; tuberculosis;
hospital-acquired infectious agents like methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), or E.
coli; bio-terror agents such as anthrax or smallpox; or any biomolecule that
can bind to a SmartSense detector.