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Pathogen Detection in Low Resource Environments

Primary Investigator: Rick Haselton & Nicholas Adams

Brief Description of Project:
Most infectious agents can be identified by searching for a pathogen's unique DNA sequences in a patient sample. This approach works well in well-equipped laboratories. A major stumbling block for low resource and/or home diagnostics is simplicity of design. Complex designs drive up the cost of manufacturing and often fail to perform properly in the hands of those unskilled in the principals of operation of the device. The goal of this project is to further develop and test a more appropriate instrument for detecting DNA sequences characteristic of a infections like malaria and tuberculosis.

Because of its high sensitivity, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the gold standard for a detection of DNA sequence characteristic of a particular infection. One of our major goals for expanding PCR to point-of-care markets is to develop simpler, more robust, and “on-demand” PCR designs. We are developing a fundamentally different PCR design called Adaptive PCR that addresses issues with the way thermal cycling is monitored and controlled, which is more suitable for under-served point-of-care settings.

Desired Qualifications:
We expect to provide the necessary training required for this project. Prior experience in research, or in particular, molecular biology or labview programming, would be helpful.

Nature Supervision:
Work with a research group consisting of Rick Haselton, Nicholas Adams, technical staff, and graduate students.

A Brief Research Plan:
Our preliminary results suggest that our Adaptive PCR design works well. In the summer, we plan to focus on some of the following questions: Can the method directly amplify nucleic acid targets from complex samples without sample preparation? What is the lowest number of copies we can detect in raw samples? Is the design sensitive enough to detect the expected number of targets? Does the design work over a range of sample conditions and temperatures? Are the built-in controls adequate to assure correct assay interpretation?

Number of Slots: 1

Contact Information:
Rick Haselton
Biomedical Engineering
5932 Stevenson Center
rick.haselton@vanderbilt.edu
615 322-6622