Drug Detection Device Based on NRL Technology Acknowledged as a Top Innovation of 2002

12/19/2002 - 61-02r
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Patented NRL technology licensed to Lifepoint, Inc. through the Federal technology transfer program has been recognized by Popular Science magazine as one of the Top 100 Tech Innovations of 2002.

The Lifepoint device, called the Impact System, is a drug and alcohol testing method based on NRL's flow immunosensor. The flow immunosensor is a biosensor for small molecules developed by Drs. Fran Ligler, Anne Kusterbeck and Bruce Gaber of NRL's Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering.

In 1992, NRL granted Lifepoint, Inc. (then U.S. Alcohol and Testing) an exclusive right to practice then patent-pending technology for detecting drugs of abuse. Later that same year, NRL signed a cooperative research and development agreement with the company to develop drug detection instruments based on the flow immunosensor.

The flow immunosensor uses the ability of antibodies to recognize specific molecules at high sensitivity. The antibodies are chemically attached to tiny beads contained within a cylinder the size of a pencil eraser. This chemical attachment immobilizes the antibodies, which bind fluorescently-labeled signal molecules that are structurally similar to the drug being tested. Test samples are then introduced into a water stream that flows through the cylinder. If the drug is present, it displaces the signal molecule, causing a fluorescent signal. The level of fluorescence is directly proportional to the amount of the drug contained in the sample.

Advantages of the flow immunosensor are its rapid response, portability for on-site testing, and low cost of operation. Additionally, the flow immunosensor is simple enough to be operated by semiskilled personnel.

Drs. Ligler and Kusterbeck received the 1992 Office of National Drug Control Policy Technology Transfer Award for Drug Enforcement in recognition of their significant technology transfer efforts supporting drug-control measures and specifically for their initiative in transferring the technology for the flow immunosensor.

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