New instrument to detect bioagents created

Engineers and biologists from Sandia Labs and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center have created an instrument that is able to detect biological warfare agents.

Richard Larson, the lead investigator on the project, told that national anthrax scares inspired him to create a device that would aid first-responders in identifying suspicious substances. In 2005, the Defense Intelligence Agency granted made the funds available and then researchers decided it could have further uses.

“It’s a platform that allows us to adapt it to the detection of a lot of different infections,” Larson said, according to ”When we decided to look for civilian applications and medical uses, we adapted it to a variety of more complex viruses and bacteria.”

The device currently has two prototypes, and Larson is attempting to make it available to healthcare professionals. There are two components to the device - a series of molecules that captures the virus or bacteria and a surface acoustic wave detector that emits a sound wave when a particular particle is captured.

Steve Casalnouvo of Sandia Labs said the detector should hasten diagnosis.

“I will tell you that this instrument will certainly simplify medical care,” Casalnouvo said, according to “It will get results much faster than current approaches. It will allow tests to be done in a doctor’s office or an emergency room without having to take some sample off to a medical diagnostic lab.”

Adaptive Methods, a manufacturer in Washington, D.C., is working on the development of an efficient production process for the detector. Once this is perfected, the device will be submitted for Food and Drug Administration approval.

“What we’ve been able to do is develop a process to build one or two of these,” Larson said, according to “In order to build a lot of them, you actually have to develop a manufacturing process that is able to produce a large number of them. That scale of process is a pretty significant technological challenge, and that’s our current challenge.”