The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is the development of an accurate, robust tool for sampling airborne viruses, bacteria, fungi and other bioaerosols. Major deficiencies with existing sampling technologies limit their broad utility in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and the proposed technology could substantially inform pandemic mitigation efforts. Customers for the proposed instrumentation include public health professionals, epidemiologists, medical researchers studying infectious and allergenic airborne diseases, homeland security and the military, industrial hygienists, aerobiologists studying the microbiome of the built and natural environment, and indoor air quality investigators. This technology will have applications beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic.
This SBIR Phase I project proposes to develop an urgently needed diagnostic tool for investigating whether SARS-CoV-2 , the virus that causes COVID-19, is present and transmitted as an aerosol, including as submicron particles. Existing air samplers are grossly inefficient in capturing particles smaller than 1 micrometer, and the sampling itself can damage the cellular walls and destroy genomic material. The technology proposed has a unique condensation growth tube (CGT) that collects and concentrates virtually all airborne particles from 5nm-10Âµm and instantly preserves the DNA/RNA, making it vastly more effective at sampling aerosolized viruses for genomic recovery. However, conventional CGT samplers are too large, expensive, and difficult to operate for widespread COVID-19 monitoring. This SBIR project will accelerate development of a simple, low-cost, scalable virus sampler for broad deployment by minimally-trained technicians. The project will fabricate several prototypes and demonstrate their efficacy both in the laboratory and in sampling airborne SARS-CoV-2 particles in key indoor locations such as medical facilities, nursing homes and/or public transportation.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.