Portable biodetector successfully detects biohazards

The portable integrated battlespace biological detection technology detects anthrax and ricin toxin

For label-free detection of biothreat agents

Stratophase, a specialist in real-time chemical and biochemical measurement, has taken part in a successful project to develop a portable integrated battlespace biological detection technology (PIBBDT).

The work, led by manufacturer Biral and funded by the UK Ministry of Defence, involved a consortium of commercial, academic and military specialists with expertise in collector technology, bio-detection and micro-fluidics. These skills were utilised as part of a proof-of-principle contract to build two fully functioning portable prototype systems for detecting biohazards in an atmospheric environment, which were tested in an exposure chamber using model-agents to simulate the relevant biohazards.

The project demonstrated the feasibility of using the complete system to collect biological factors from the atmosphere, concentrate them in a liquid sample, and then detect pre-defined hazardous materials within the sample using Stratophase’s optical microchip detector.

The microchip was also tested separately in laboratories at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s bioagent exposure facility with real targets including several well-known bio-warfare factors, such as B. anthracis (the causative agent of anthrax) and Ricin toxin. This microchip employs Stratophase’s proprietary optical technology in combination with immunoassay receptor chemistry to detect biological agents with a high degree of specificity and sensitivity, forming an essential part of the prototype system.

The optical microchip technology developed by Stratophase detects changes in the refractive index of a liquid passing over its surface. When used as a bio-detector, the chip is coated with specific antibodies that bind with high specificity and affinity to biological targets. When a given toxin, bacteria or virus is present in the sample it binds and triggers a positive detection.

Richard Williams, Stratophase’s chief executive, said: “The PIBBDT project represents a major development in the generation of a specific biological detection technology for use by the UK’s armed forces. This prototype system is an excellent example of how Stratophase’s robust, flexible optical microchip technology can be used to perform precise and dependable measurements.”