Scientists develop advanced sensors for biological agent detection

October 02, 2003

Palo Alto, Calif. - October 2, 2003 - Developing effective detectors for biological agents is a priority for an increasing number of scientists at companies and government groups worldwide.

Because of some innovative work, protein and antibody chips have come to the forefront in DNA-based techniques to identify biological agents. With devices based on these chips, scientists have discovered a way to eradicate the need to initially remove DNA from pathogens. Eliminating this step speeds detection and, in the process, moves scientists closer to satisfying a critical requirement of these devices.

"The current thrust for both physical and chemical analysis is to solve the time and reagent problems and provide broad-spectrum instruments that can be used in military and civilian situations," says Technical Insights Analyst James Smith.

Without clear direction, the integration of new technologies into a comprehensive set of methods and instruments for future detection may prove to be costly and slow. For instance, antibody-based detectors in weapons take 30 to 45 minutes for the capture-to-identification process and are reagent intensive.

Because of the war on terrorism, the need for fast, accurate, and reliable biological and chemical sensing is critical. Developing sensor systems for continuous, real-time detection of biological agents is the ultimate aim. Instrument systems will be the workhorses behind these systems.

Biosensors and chemical sensors are being integrated with microfluidics technology for use in point detection of agents. However, trace analysis with these devices is still time consuming, slowed by the arduous need for sampling and sample preparation.

Novel microfluidic devices are being developed using a special strain of E. coli, which exudes large amounts of potassium even when exposed to small amounts of oxidative toxins. An optical system built into the chip detects the potassium and, accordingly, the oxidative toxins.

"Homeland security can benefit from this analysis because many chemical warfare toxins are oxidative," says Smith. "Not only can drinking water systems be protected this way, but disastrous direct attacks on wastewater treatment, especially for large cities, can be prevented."

Several challenges exist. For example, industry participants need to gear up for the development of detectors for specific, known agents. Further, it may not be easy to quickly characterize and identify the latest strains and toxins.

New analysis by Technical Insights, a business unit of Frost & Sullivan (, Advances in Chemical and Biological Detection for Security, notes that rapid detection is essential to respond effectively to a biological and chemical attack, especially when there is a perpetual threat of assault using weapons of mass destruction. Governments have been actively promoting research and development of new technologies for security applications, sensors, equipment, and analytical process.

Technical Insights will hold a conference call at 1:00 p.m. (EDT)/ 10:00 a.m. (PDT) on October 9, 2002 to provide a summary and analysis of the latest developments in chemical and biological detection for security. Those interested in participating in the call should send an email to Julia Paulson at with the following information for registration:

Full name, Company Name, Title, Contact Tel Number, Contact Fax Number, Email. Upon receipt of the above information, a confirmation/pass code for the live briefing will be emailed to you.

Technical Insights is an international technology information analysis business that produces a variety of technical news alert, newsletter, and report services.

Advances in Chemical and Biological Detection for Security is part of the Homeland Security Alert service that includes market insights on Encryption and Network Security, Explosive Detection, Radiation Detection, Personal Protection, and other security-related topics. Executive summaries and interviews are available to the press.
Frost & Sullivan, an international growth consultancy, has been supporting clients' expansion for more than four decades. Our market expertise covers a broad spectrum of industries, while our portfolio of advisory competencies include custom strategic consulting, market intelligence and management training. Our mission is to forge partnerships with our clients' management teams to deliver market insights and to create value and drive growth through innovative approaches. Frost & Sullivan's network of consultants, industry experts, corporate trainers and support staff, spans the globe with offices in every major country.

Advances in Chemical and Biological Detection for Security

Julia Paulson
Senior Media Relations Executive
P: 210-247-3870
F: 210-348-1003

Kristina Menzefricke
Public Relations Manager - Europe
P: 44-207-343-8376
F: 44-207-730-3343

Pramila Gurtoo
DID: 603-6204-5811
Gen: 603-6204-5800
Fax: 603-6201-7402

Technical Insights

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