04-038: Virus Based Detection in Microarray Sensors

George Mason University technology 04-038 can provide a standardized high quality low cost method for the rapid detection and identification of microbial pathogens using trace amounts of DNA.


Detection and identification of microbial pathogens are critical challenges in clinical medicine and public health surveillance. Currently, the techniques used to identify such pathogens rely upon conventional clinical microbiology approaches, but such techniques are laborious, expensive and require unstable natural products. They are not suitable for managing large number of environmental or clinical samples. What is needed is a standardized method of detection that can rapidly detect trace amounts of DNA while consistently delivering high quality low cost results.

Scientists at George Mason University and the Naval Research Laboratory have developed a novel approach to increase the amount of signal per binding event by using a harmless stable plant virus to carry multiple dye molecules, thus increasing the signal per binding event. This invention is the first use of a viral particle to enhance detection. Standard array sensor detection techniques use a small tracer molecule which contains a binding piece that can bind to targets trapped on probes in the array as well as a dye used to generate signal used to read the array. In virus-based detection, the virus is used as a scaffold to hold both the binding piece as well as 60 or more dye molecules, greatly increasing the available signal when the array is read. This has resulted in improved detection sensitivity and increased detection speed due to eliminating the need for multiple tests to validate.

Market Significance:

Improved detection and identification of microbial pathogens is critically important to maintaining and improving global public health and clinical research. The ability to detect trace amounts of harmful foodbome pathogens and increasing the speed and accuracy in which public health organizations identify the existence of harmful bacteria or virus' that threaten the public welfare are just two significant uses for this technology.
Any company who performs or creates equipments that uses fluorescent based detection methods would benefit. A prototype for cholera has been developed and tested on the AFFYMETRIX genechip array. Current studies to detect cholera and determine its sensitivity to antibiotics are underway at the CDC.