Real-Time Reagentless and Arrayed Detector for the Monitoring of Harmful Algal Bloom Toxins

EPA Contract Number: EPD06047
Title: Real-Time Reagentless and Arrayed Detector for the Monitoring of Harmful Algal Bloom Toxins
Investigators: McAloney, Richard
Small Business: Lynntech Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2006 through August 31, 2006
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , SBIR - Water and Wastewater , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur in aquatic environments when conditions trigger an increase in the abundance of organisms that produce toxins. The toxins are transferred through the food web where they affect and even kill zooplankton, shellfish, fish, birds, marine mammals, and possibly humans. HABs have been estimated to cost the United States as much as $50 million per year as a result of the closure of fisheries, recreational waters and beaches, and the treatment of human illness from exposure to toxins. Early detection of blooms and rapid response to such events is the most effective way to mitigate the impact of HABs. The official methods to test for HAB toxins are the mouse bioassay and high-performance liquid chromatography. These methods are generally laborious, time-consuming, and require expensive laboratory equipment. Currently, there are no real-time, stand-alone monitoring devices to test for the presence of biotoxins from HABs. Lynntech will develop an inexpensive, rugged, reagentless, and real-time detection system for shellfish toxins in seawater. The versatility and arraying ability of the proposed technology will enable detection of a multitude of toxins and pathogens (e.g., cyanobacteria) in fresh or ocean water. Lynntech’s proposed technology is based on diffraction-based sensing that utilizes the changes in diffracted light intensity upon the absorption of a target onto specific areas of a patterned surface of antibodies. The specific recognition and the use of diffraction detection eliminate the need for any secondary labeled-antibodies and reagents and are quantifiable. In Phase I, Lynntech will develop the proposed sensor technology for the detection of various brevetoxins from the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis, a common species associated with HABs. The subcontractor, Dr. Baden, from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, is a brevetoxin expert and the major work supplier of brevetoxins and brevetoxin antibodies. In Phase II, an alpha generation system will be assembled and incorporated into the Texan Automated Buoy System in collaboration with Dr. Lisa Campbell from the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University.

The main commercial application of this proposed research is for coastal monitoring of HAB biotoxins for health and safety. The potential exists to produce and sell hundreds of thousands of sensors to monitor the U.S. coastline, and worldwide sales could reach into the millions. The technology is easily amenable to detecting pathogens, further enhancing the commercialization potential in the food safety and water monitoring markets.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, algal bloom toxins, high-performance liquid chromatography, biotoxins, brevetoxins, water monitoring, food safety, Texan Automated Buoy System, cyanobacteria, fisheries, recreational waters, ocean water, aquatic environments, harmful algae, sensor technology, environmental toxins, environmental monitoring, fresh water, EPA,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, algal blooms, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Environmental Engineering, early warning capabilities, dinoflagellates, brevetoxins, algal bloom detection, algal toxins, montoring sensors, cyanobacteria

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final