A Compact, Automated Unit For Identifying Microorganisms by Their Nucleic Acids

Period of Performance: 05/14/1998 - 11/14/1998


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Tacan Corp.
2330 Faraday Ave
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Principal Investigator


Due to the serious hazards of biological warfare agents, advanced detection capabilities must be developed to protect personnel in a variety of field situations. Aerosols, in particular, are a likely means of delivering the potential biohazards. Analyzing these aerosols rapidly and accurately is critical to successful defense, and can involve several levels of physical and biochemical analysis. A key biochemical component of bacteria and viruses is their nucleic acid composition because multiple copies of a toxin or viral agent will be produced from the genetic information. Unfortunately, current methods and instrumentation to detect specific nucleic acid sequences are too slow, labor intensive, and require multiple instruments for processing and analysis. This Phase I proposal describes an innovative RNA methodology to isolate the target microorganisms, prepare the ribosomal RNA, and detect it with fluorescently labeled oligonucleotide probes. The method is designed to be completed in 30 minutes or less, and can be integrated into a compact, automated instrument suitable for demanding field applications. Sample handling will be entirely enclosed to ensure safety and simplify operation. The fundamental position of nucleic acids in many biomedical and biotechnological fields supports the commercial potential of an effective nucleic acid identifier.