This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project is to develop an inexpensive and rapid sensing technology for detection of tuberculosis (TB) at the point of care (POC). Rapid screening of TB in rural areas is difficult because current diagnostic methods are expensive, time consuming (several days to weeks), and require specialized equipment (laboratories and hospitals) that are not readily available in rural TB rampant areas. This sensing technology utilizes a solid-state sensor based on metal functionalized 3D TiO2 nanotube arrays that bind specific volatile biomarkers that are given off by the mycobacterium that cause TB. The readout for the end-user is an electronic signal that gives a rapid, positive/negative answer based on change in current. The sensor is simple to operate, requires no specialized biological reagents for sensing (i.e. antibodies, fluorescent tags, etc.), and requires a simple potentiostat for operation. This project has the potential to be developed into an inexpensive rapid POC device for screening populations at risk for TB using a breathalyzer like device that requires minimal training to operate.
The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is substantial. TB is a devastating infectious disease in the world with approximately 14 million people worldwide infected. Although incidences within the Western World have declined, there is still a worldwide pandemic within countries of Asia and Africa. The company intends to address the market need for a rapid diagnosis of TB, specifically in endemic countries where there are insufficient resources for diagnosis of the disease in rural areas. In addition it is envisioned that this project will expand the application of the TiO2 nanotube sensing platform to other diseases beyond TB and other fields. For example VOBs are known to be associated with heart transplant rejection, lung cancer, ischemic heart disease, preeclampsia of pregnancy, diabetes mellitus, and breast cancer. The technology can also be applied to non-biomedical applications such as detection of volatile organic compounds in drinking water, and detection of improvised explosive devices.