New Ventures | Rapid Diagnostic Test Reduces Testing Time and Increases Accuracy

Article by: UT Ag Research

A new device, developed by Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Professor Shigetoshi Eda and Dr. Jayne Wu, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, aims to reduce disease diagnosis time. Eda, who originally joined UTIA in 2003, began working on diagnostic testing in domestic animals, focusing primarily on Johne’s disease, a potentially fatal disease that affects ruminant animals. With success, he sought to expand the capability of his original idea. His newest technology, called ACEK-based capacitive biosensor (ABC biosensor), is versatile and can be used for environmental testing, diagnosis of diseases, and evaluating health conditions. ABC biosensor, which was previously patented, has recently been licensed by Knoxville-based startup company Vortex Biotechnology Inc.

The collaboration was a key component to this project’s success. Dr. Jayne Wu, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, joined the project as a technology collaborator. At the beginning of their collaboration, Dr. Wu was completing a project studying alternating current electrokinetics, a pro (ACEK) effects for lab-on-a-chip applications. Collaborating offered Dr. Wu, “a great opportunity to apply my knowledge of ACEK.”

The UT Research Foundation was also instrumental in identifying companies for the research team to work with, assisting with the patent application, and providing maturation funding to assist the research team in furthering their technology toward commercial development.

ABC biosensor is a small, handheld device (photographed) that has a chip on which users place a sample. Results are ready in less than two minutes. The device relies on ACEK, a process of manipulating particles by applying electrical fields. Body fluids, such as blood, milk, or saliva, are used to evaluate disease and health conditions.

Historically, the problem with diagnostic testing is the accuracy of the testing as well as the length of time for test results. Samples have to be sent away for an evaluation, and laboratories will often wait to process several samples at once to reduce the cost of each test. The process can take up to a week, potentially leaving sick animals untreated. The ABC biosensor reduces waiting time for the producer, can be less invasive than other forms of testing, and is cheaper than traditional testing methods.

The ABC biosensor will continue to be tested and developed. Vortex Biotechnology will proceed with validating test results with the hopes of bringing this product to the public. Commercial application of this technology must provide consistent results across multiple applications, and its shelf life must be tested before it will be made accessible to all. Ultimately, bringing the ABC biosensor to the market will make diagnostic testing more accessible, affordable, and timely. Dr. Eda hopes to see the benefit for the agriculture industry: “The technology would allow producers to identify diseases and evaluate health conditions in a timely and cost-effective fashion, leading to a higher productivity.”