Lead Researcher: Dr Katrina Campbell
For more than a decade the Advanced Asset laboratory has been pioneering the use of biosensor technology in the area of food safety monitoring and we are recognised as world-leading research group in this area. We are experts in the development of highly innovative sensor based detection systems relating to biological and chemical contaminants in foods of pertinence to food integrity, safety, defence, quality and sustainability. Examples of such contamination include: naturally occurring toxins of fungal, algal, plant and bacterial origin present in the environment (e.g. mycotoxins and marine biotoxins); improper use of agrichemicals (e.g. antibiotics, pesticides), the illegal use of growth promoting compounds in animal production (e.g. B-agonists), by-products from food processing (e.g. acrylamide, allergens) and food-borne pathogens.
In addition to the traditional enzyme and luminescence based immunoassay design capabilities (e.g. ELISA and LFDs) the ASSET centre hosts a suite of optical (e.g. SPR, planar waveguide, Luminex XMap) and electrochemical (e.g. Palmsens) biosensor platforms with full capabilities in printing technology for developing nanosensing lab on a chip nucleic acid or proteins multiplex arrays. To complement these platforms are the molecular and protein tools for characterisation eg PCR, RT-PCR, 2D gel electrophoresis and imager, Western blots, nanodrop and bioanalyser. The Institute has top class Category 2 mammalian and bacterial cell culturing facilities for phage protein and monoclonal antibody production and for the utilisation of algal and bacterial culturesfor developing and validating biosensor methods of analysis for toxin and pathogen detection.
Examples of some projects employing our Biosensor Technologies:
When we consider farms of the future we should not forget the importance of aquaculture in securing food security for 2050. An H2020 EU funded project has enabled the Institute to collaborate with institutions throughout Europe to tackle the global issue of shellfish diseases that are not only causing severe economic losses for the industry but are jeopardizing the sustainability of the industry. The project Vivaldi: Preventing and mitigating farmed bivalve diseases is utilizing the ASSET Technology laboratory for the development of rapid portable biosensors for the early warning detection of shellfish diseases. We produce different antibody and molecular binders to design on farm diagnostics with simplicity in use to empower farmers to make managerial decisions for both preventing and mitigating the spread of disease affecting animal health and toxin contamination affecting human health. This work is already promoting optimum sustainable practice for aquaculture management, while minimizing the entry of toxins into aquaculture products through work conducted with the Marine Sciences Institute at the University of Tasmania for monitoring harmful algal blooms.
Feed and food contamination with natural toxins, anthropogenic chemicals, allergens, pathogens or practices of adulteration that may affect animal and human health is a major concern for the consumer. Increasing media attention on the insecurities of supply chains is driving a paradigm shift in food quality and safety testing in order to free resources for an intensified combat against vulnerabilities in the food chain. Research being conducted through an EU H2020 Marie Curie Training Network Project Foodsmartphone has enabled the institute to form a European multidisciplinary consortium to convert smartphones into rapid diagnostic biosensing platforms. As an enabling technology solution to the problem, FoodSmartphone proposes the development of smartphone-based (bio) analytical sensing and diagnostic tools, for simplified on-site pre-screening of quality and safety parameters and wireless data transfer to servers of relevant stakeholders. FoodSmartphone offers the early-stage researchers an extensive programme of both mandatory and optional network-wide training events and inter-sectoral secondments to other research institutes and industries interested in adopting the diagnostic tools developed. The scientific training and development of novel smartphone-based sensing technologies plus the complementary skills training provided, will have a major impact on future EU feed and food monitoring practices and, moreover, pave the road for Citizen Science.
It has been estimated that food allergies affect between 2% and 3% of adults in the industrialised world and upwards of 10% in young children. Undeclared food allergens can cause a significant health risk to susceptible individuals whereby over 180 allergenic compounds have been identified. Due to malpractices and cross-contamination in food supply chains, the unpredictable nature of an allergenic response and the variation of dose required to produce an adverse effect, food allergens need to be effectively controlled through informative labelling and rapid novice user manageable detection systems to ensure public safety. Funded by EPRSC seed funding we are examining the suitability of different novel and prototype biosensor platforms for the detection of allergenic proteins affecting human health. In collaboration with colleagues from the Institute for Health Sciences at the university we are utilising this biosensor facility for the evaluation of antibody-targeted nanoparticles as a next generation drug formats to combat cancer and other diseases.
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