Rapid Detection of Algal Toxins

EPA Contract Number: EPD09019
Title: Rapid Detection of Algal Toxins
Investigators: Barrall, Geoffrey A
Small Business: Electronic Bio Sciences, LLC
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: February 1, 2009 through September 15, 2009
Project Amount: $69,988
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The proposed program will demonstrate the ability of a detector based on measuring the conductance of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) ion channels to detect and quantify anatoxin-a contamination in drinking water systems.  The nAChR is extremely sensitive to the presence of anatoxin-a.  Electronic Bio Sciences has already made extensive progress in the development of a robust ion channel-based detection platform and will use this platform with the nAChR to develop a simple, low-cost screening system.  The program will focus on several critical steps including fusing nAChR containing vesicles to our robust ion channel platform and determining the limits of anatoxin-a detection when measuring the conductance of nAChR ion channels in a lipid bilayer.  In addition, preliminary experiments will take place to determine whether common contaminants of drinking water will interfere with the detection of the target toxin.  Previously, the detection of neurotoxins in drinking water and food has only been possible with laboratory equipment maintained in an offsite analysis facility.  The resulting ion channel-based sensing system has the potential to be very compact, comparable to a small handheld electronic device, and suitable for use outside of the laboratory and in the field.

The initial application of the technology will be in the area of on-site screening of drinking water at water processing facilities.  The proposed system will provide rapid determination of the presence and concentration of anatoxin-a contamination.  By changing the ion channel used in the sensor system it will be possible to test for additional toxins.  Certain sodium ion channels may be substituted for nAChR in order to detect the presence of saxitoxin, the toxin responsible for paralytic shellfish poisoning..  An inexpensive screening system for saxitoxin contamination will find immediate application in the shell fish industry.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, EPA, detection, algal toxins, anatoxin-a, contamination, drinking water, low-cost screening, neurotoxins, water processing facility, saxitoxin, rapid detection, measurement and monitoring,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report