Sensors 2015

Sensors 2015

Bioanalytical Sensing Technologies

Conference with Posters

held on Tuesday 16th June 2015
at The Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London

A Conference Report   by Ruchi Gupta

The theme of the meeting was Bioanalytical Sensing Technologies. There were presentations on different aspects of sensing technologies including recognition species (short peptides, proteins), transducers (electrical, electrochemical, optical, acoustics), data analysis and monitoring of environment in which they operate. In addition, there were presentations on analytical techniques and in particular, gas chromatography. The benefits and limitations of these sensing technologies and analytical techniques for measuring markers of diseases (diabetes, stroke, cancer and influenza) in a range of biological samples (blood, urine, sweat, breath and faeces) and security was also discussed.

A presentation by Prof. Mike Turner (University of Manchester) described the feasibility of using of short peptide sequences incorporated into organic semiconductor blends for sensing nitroaromatics using organic field effect transistors (OFETs). The Peptide sequences were derived from the odorant binding proteins of bumblebees. Similar to Prof. Turner, Prof. Krishna Persaud's (University of Manchester) work took inspiration from nature to develop a pool of proteins capable of recognising drugs of abuse. More specifically, a pool of proteins was developed by introducing mutations in the Odorant Binding Protein OBP1, which is present in vertebrates and insects. It was interesting to note that the tertiary structure of the protein OBP1 obtained from various organisms is different. A comparison of sensitivity, selectivity, robustness and temperature stability of short peptides and proteins will provide useful insights into their benefits and limitations, thereby assisting the sensors community to select a recognition species that is optimised for odour sensing.

Prof. Nick Goddard (University of Manchester) discussed the challenges of the application of label-free (optical) sensors for analysis of real samples in-field where ambient temperature is typically not well controlled. In order to address this issue Prof. Goddard and his team have developed an internally referenced leaky waveguide (LW) sensor; the basic operating principle of LW sensors is different to SPR sensors. The penetration depth of the evanescent field of LW sensors was extended to ~1 µm by an appropriate choice of the waveguide material, which was useful for detection of large analytes such as bacteria and viruses. Prof. Vincent Emery (University of Surrey) discussed the need for rapid and sensitive in-field sensors for detection of pandemic (H1N1) and other disease causing (influenza, HIV I) viruses. Prof Emery and colleagues have developed novel capture coatings which in combination with surface acoustic wave technology have been illustrated to be suitable for detection of some of these viruses with high sensitivity in clinical samples. This biosensor has been engineered to be plugged mobile phones to send alerts.

Professors Seamus Higson (University of Cranfield), Chris Probert (University of Liverpool) and Claire Turner (The Open University) presented examples from their work to highlight that choice of biomarkers for diagnosis of medical conditions is challenging. In addition, there has been an increasing trend towards analysis of an array of biomarkers to obtain clinically significant data. This in turn means that multivariate data is produced, which requires development of powerful multivariate classification algorithms to separate data into groups such as healthy versus diseased, and was the topic of discussion of Professor Conrad Bessant (Queen Mary University of London). Finally, Professor Jeremy G. Frey  (University of Southampton) discussed his work on developing ways of monitoring laboratory environment using a combination of sensor networks, automatically recording the information (metadata) obtained with experimental data and making it available for dissemination.

There were five posters, which were focused on optical (FRET, refractive index), quartz crystal microbalance, conductivity and electrochemical biosensors, and their applications in detection of explosives, anaerobic reactors and monitoring of public health.

In summary, the meeting was an excellent opportunity to become aware of exciting scientific developments in bioanalytical sensing technologies and identify challenging new areas, for example in disease diagnosis by odour and the detection of new viral strains, and also provided excellent opportunities for future research collaborations and exploitation of novel technologies.