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Advancing SERS to field technology for food defense application

Award No.: 
Principal Investigator: 
Lili He
PI Organization: 
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Start Date: 
July, 2014
End Date: 
June, 2015
The use of biological and chemical toxins as terror agents on the food supply could cause catastrophic consequences to public health and severe economic impact. However, an analytical method that can rapidly detect these agents in dynamic food chains is lacking. Previously, we received NCFPD support to develop Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopic (SERS) techniques for rapid detection of ricin and anthrax spores in milk and orange juice. We have successfully developed three SERS methods coupled with silver (Ag) dendrites substrate for the detection of ricin in milk and orange juice: IMS-SERS, antibody-based SERS, and aptamer-based SERS. The aptamer-based SERS was also successfully applied in the detection of anthrax spores in orange juice. The goal of this transition project is to advance SERS to a field-ready technology and develop a user resource (online SERS database) and new educational material. For fabricating a prototype for rapid and convenient detection of ricin in the field, Ag dendrites will be integrated into a filter syringe. The advantages for this design are: 1) reduced sample preparation steps and thus reduced analytical time, 2) more convenient on-site measuring by a portable Raman instrument. The use of a handheld Raman instrument for semiquantification of the ricin in a layman's format will be established. Our transition partner, Agiltron Inc., is interested in our technique and the laboratory prototype and will be collaborating with us to convert the prototype into a more easily manufactured product. The SERS database of toxins will be developed through summary of our previous research. The database will enhance the user interface to allow more end users to access this technique. The development of a special seminar on the topic of "Advanced Analytical Techniques for Food Defense" as part of "Advanced Food Analytical Chemistry", a 3-credit graduate course taught at UMass by PI Dr. Lili He will provide an education for students to understand current gaps in the analytical development for food risk analysis in a dynamic chain and encourage the development of critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, and communication skills
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