Improved Field Biosensor for Organophosphates

Period of Performance: 04/07/2003 - 04/07/2005


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Semorex, Inc.
Fanwood, NJ 07023
Principal Investigator


Semorex has carried out a successful Phase I project which demonstrates the potential of Molecularly Imprinted Polymer (MIP) technology to solve the critical problem of improving organophosphate (OP) detection. MIPs, plastic polymers with specific molecular binding sites molded into them, combine the selectivity of antibodies with the robustness of polymers. Prior to and as part of Phase I, Semorex has designed and prepared MIPs capable of covalently binding and neutralizing OP-model compounds. These MIPs displayed: 1) affinity binding constants similar to antibodies; 2) thermal stability unimaginable in biological systems; 3) agent selectivity; 4) rapid binding at low concentrations; 5) no leakage of receptor sites; and 6) suitability for sensor application. Indeed, during Phase I Semorex met or exceeded all project goals and clearly demonstrated the feasibility of preparing MIPs that effectively bind and selectively detect OP nerve agent analogs in air and water. We also demonstrated that MIPs could be incorporated as rapid, selective detection components of sensor systems. The major objectives of the continuation ("Fast Track") Phase II project proposed here are to produce MIPs against actual OP agents ("nerve gases") and to develop superior alternatives to the problematic M256A1 and M272 detection kits. A second objective is to apply MIPs for lightweight, sensor modules. MIP technology is simple, usable on-site, inexpensive, and adaptable to many different sensors. Toxins such as sulfur mustard and, ultimately, biological toxins can also be readily targeted. At the end of this investor-supported Phase II, Semorex will provide tested prototypes of MIP-based OP sensors for at least one V and one G agent. The use of CW detection kits during the Gulf War, highlighted their lack of reliability, and difficulties of use. The proposed MIP-based system promises improved ease of use and greater reliability (including decreased false positives), in a highly robust, reliable, and widely applicable system. Of particular significance for future applications, MIP technology is, by its nature, readily adaptable to almost any chemical warfare agents. The technology to be developed in Phase II can be readily scaled up for the economical manufacture of large quantities of MIPs for either detection or countermeasure applications. We fully expect to see the spin-off development of stand-alone sensors from this technology in short order. Unlike antibodies, molecularly imprinted polymers can be engineered to tight specifications, including coupling to reporter domains for efficient and quantitative signal detection and/or neutralization. In addition, MIPs can be produced as aerosols, films, sponges, swipes, coating components, etc., providing great flexibility for product design. We, together with our subcontractors and other interested parties, will seek additional uses of our MIP formulations for foam decontaminants and protective paints and fibers (e.g., for clothing). In addition to military applications, MIPs are expected to find civilian commercial application in Homeland Security, environment protection, and medical diagnostics.