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Sandia developing quick detector for botulinum, ricin, other bio threats

Sandia's SpinDx

Sandia National Laboratories researchers are developing a medical instrument that will be able to quickly detect a number of biological threat agents, including anthrax, ricin, botulinum, shiga and SEB toxin, in hospital emergency rooms.

Once developed and approved by the Food and Drug Administration and commercialized, said Sandia on April 2, the device would most likely be used in emergency rooms after a bioterrorism incident.

 “This is an unmet need for the nation’s biodefense program,” said Anup Singh, senior manager for Sandia’s biological science and technology group. “A point-of-care device does not exist.”

 The work on the device is being funded under a recent $4 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, according to Sandia. The $4 million allocation is spread out over four years, it said.

 Sandia noted that its biosciences and microfluidics program areas have continued to evolve with a string of notable projects. Among them are its MicroChemLab, a trailblazer in lab-on-a-chip technology, developed in the early 1990s; a “saliva device” and a follow-up technology, RapiDx, developed in the early-to-mid 2000s; and SpinDx, the lab’s latest medical diagnostic tool.

The SpinDx technology uses centrifugal forces to manipulate samples and reagents through microfluidic channels implanted on disks that are of the same size as a standard CD or DVD, essentially creating a diagnostic “lab on a disk,” according to Sandia.

“This will take things to the next level,” said Singh. In addition to the broader suite of toxins and bacterial agents that the device would test for, the project includes comprehensive testing with animal (mouse) samples.

Singh said the testing in mice is an an important step, because toxins may behave differently in live animals and humans than in laboratory blood samples. “We are getting closer and closer to translational elements of research, which involves testing in animal and clinical facilities. This is part of the maturation of our bioresearch activities at Sandia.”

 The project also will increase what SpinDx can do, he added.

“When you look for bacterial agents, you don’t want to rely solely on proteins because you won’t get the detection sensitivity you need,” explained Singh. “So we are also using other methods that may lead to better detection limits and additional confirmation.”

The new NIH project includes collaborators with expertise in animal modeling as well as device manufacturing, according to Sandia.

The University of Texas Medical Branch, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Regional Research Center in Albany, CA, are providing Sandia with expert insight into toxins and diseases at animal lab facilities, it said. Bio-Rad, a manufacturer and distributor of a variety of devices and laboratory technologies, is serving as a consultant on the project to evaluate plans for product development, assist with manufacturers’ criteria on the device that is developed, and provide important feedback when a prototype is built, it said.