Bioluminescent Detection of Chemical Agent Contamination

Period of Performance: 09/21/2006 - 12/29/2008


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Klein Assoc., Inc.
DUBLIN, OH 43016
Principal Investigator


Chemical weapons such as organophosphate (OP) nerve agents pose a deadly risk to military and civilian personnel since they are easily dispersed, they persist in the environment, and are extremely toxic. In addition, OP pesticide contamination causes 1 to 3 million unintentional poisonings annually worldwide. Consequently, there is an urgent need for natural biological systems that can detect and biodegrade these toxic compounds. This proposal will generate a Saccharomyces cerevisiae biocatalyst/biosensor that can detect and biodegrade OP agents such as VX, which is the most lethal and persistent OP. S. cerevisiae, which is a robust non-pathogenic microorganism that is resistant to environmental extremes, will be used as a self-contained biocatalyst/biosensor. Importantly, the yeast biosensor will also be able to detect the subsequent VX biodegraded products and will thereby provide a means for monitoring the decontamination process. The goal is to generate a biocatalyst/biosensor which: (i) will require minimal consumables; (ii) will be cheap to produce in bulk quantities; (iii) will emit distinct spectral properties following VX detection and biodegradation, and (iv) will be visually assessed using a simple hand held illumination device. The generation of a system that can detect and biodegrade OPs, and follow the decontamination process, is novel.