HJ Science & Technology Inc. proposes to develop a fully integrated and automated instrument for performing rapid detection and monitoring of microbes on surfaces and air environments. This technology supports NASA’s Planetary Protection goals of protecting solar system bodies from biological contamination as well as protecting Earth from life forms possibly returned from those extraterrestrial bodies. Specifically, the proposed instrument autonomously and rapidly enumerates bioburden on surface and air environments of cleanrooms, spacecrafts, and payload hardware. In addition to measuring the total number of microbes, the instrument distinguishes between microbe states, such as viable organisms or spores, relevant in Planetary Protection practices. This instrument stems from our novel ChargeSwitch Concentration and Purification (CSCP) technology that bridges the gap between large volume sample processing and small volume genomic detection without sacrificing cell capture efficiency. In Phase I, we will integrate our previously developed CSCP prototype with sample processing and qPCR to quantify microbes on surface and air environments, as well as to differentiate between viable organisms and spores within the sample. In Phase II, we will construct and deliver a fully integrated prototype for autonomous microbial monitoring.
The proposed microbial detection instrument is ideal to support the Planetary Protection’s goal of reducing cross-contamination of terrestrial and possible extraterrestrial life forms by rapidly quantifying bioburden during preparation of spacecraft and autonomously monitors microbes during missions to and from extraterrestrial bodies. Planetary Protections engineers can rapidly validate cleanliness of spacecraft hardware and assembly areas, improve decontamination based on real-time data, and autonomously monitor contamination during missions.
The proposed microbial detection instrument is naturally suited for pathogen detection and monitoring in water and food supply industries on Earth. Moreover, the autonomous monitoring capability of our proposed instrument is ideal for cleanroom monitoring in manufacturing or pharmaceutical environments.