Handheld microfluidic device for cyanobacteria toxin detection and monitoring

EPA Contract Number: EPD15007
Title: Handheld microfluidic device for cyanobacteria toxin detection and monitoring
Investigators: Jiao, Hong
Small Business: HJ Science & Technology Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: November 1, 2014 through October 31, 2016 (Extended to October 31, 2017)
Project Amount: $299,954
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2014) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Water


HJ Science & Technology, Inc. proposes a portable microfluidic automation technology capable of rapid and real time detection and identification of microcystins and other toxins produced by freshwater cyanobacteria (cyanotoxins). During blooms, many cyanotoxins in freshwater are known to cause damage to liver or damage to nerve axons and synapses. Though not strictly regulated, the EPA recommends the level of microcystins, cylindrospermopsins and anatoxins in drinking water not to exceed 1 ppb. Currently, cyanotoxin levels are monitored by collecting the samples are in the field and bringing them back to the laboratory for analysis. Compared with laboratory based methods, HJ Science & Technology’s portable onsite platform offers several important advantages, including reduction in time and cost, real-time data for better and more timely decision making, and reduction in reagent consumption. The heart of our innovation is a novel microfluidic device, consisting of novel microvalves and micropumps, with complete end-to-end assay automation capabilities. The proposed technology is inexpensive, easy to use, and designed to perform rapid cyanotoxin detections with sensitivity and specificity that are only currently achievable with laboratory-based instruments.
In Phase I, HJ Science & Technology established the technical feasibility of the proposed technology by successfully fabricating microfluidic devices and performing automated immunoassay for microcystin in water samples. Specifically, microcystin standard curves with a limit of detection of 0.16 ppb were generated. The results are in excellent agreement with the manually prepared commercial ELISA kit.
During the Phase II effort, HJ Science & Technology will design and build a field-deployable portable instrument with microfluidic automation capable of performing onsite monitoring and detection of microcystin and other cyanotoxins. During the Phase II commercialization option, the company will deploy its instrument for field testing at Pinto Lake Pinto Lake, a nearby popular recreational spot, which has been plagued with seasonal algal blooms that release microcystin and other deadly toxins. As such, the field deployable instrument will be specifically designed and constructed to meet the challenging requirement of onsite environmental monitoring. In Phase III, HJ Science & Technology will begin manufacturing for the commercial market. The key target audiences include resource managers, public health officials, and aquaculture facilities.

Supplemental Keywords:

cyanobacteria toxins, drinking water, electrochemical membrane sensors, fluorescence detection, ELISA

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report

  • SBIR Phase I:

    Handheld Microfluidic Device for Cyanobacteria Toxin Detection and Monitoring  | Final Report