Federal researchers are developing a revolutionary new method of biodetection that they say could identify nasty germs in a matter of hours, not weeks or months, and possibly save thousands of lives during a biological outbreak or attack.
Sandia National Laboratories’ Rapid Threat Organism Recognition project combines advances in gene sequencing and the lab’s expertise in microfluidics to create a small, rapid, fully automated detectors that scientists say could be used to characterize unusual pathogens — even those never seen before, said Duane Lindner, deputy director for chemical and biological programs at the lab.
Today, the United States’ ability to respond to outbreaks is not keeping pace with developing biological threats, said Lindner, speaking to an audience at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s annual research and development symposium last week. Health and security officials rely on environmental detection systems, such as the Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch program, to monitor major cities for outbreaks. But those detection systems are geared toward identifying traditional pathogens, Lindner said.