Clemson Food Science Team Receives Funding to Develop Biosensors for Food

A team made up of Clemson Food Science faculty members Dr. Paul Dawson and Dr. Julie Northcutt, and Chemistry Professor, Dr. Bill Pennington, have received a three year BARD research grant totaling $300,000 to develop biosensors for food. The Clemson team will join teams from Furman University (Dr. Tim Hanks – Chemistry) and Ben Gurian University.

Abstract of Research Proposal
Recurring incidents of bacterial contaminations in foods, combined with the increased awareness of bioterrorism risks, have accelerated efforts for developing new contaminant sensors. Severe limitations exist in most current detection platforms due to the complexity of sensing techniques and signal transduction schemes, in particular with regard to simple, inexpensive, on-site bacterial detectors. The proposed research aims to develop and demonstrate new bacterial contaminant sensors based upon polydiacetylene, a unique polymer that undergoes rapid color transformations in response to external molecular stimuli. The researchers submitting this application have extensive expertise working with polydiacetylene systems and their application to bacterial sensing. In particular, we have demonstrated that polydiacetylene-containing assemblies, including thin films, porous gel networks, natural fibers, and others, undergo dramatic color changes upon interacting with bacteria and bacterial biofilms. Building on our previous accomplishments, this proposal aims to create simple, easily deployed sensor systems capable of detecting bacterial contaminations in food processing and handling environments.

The proposed research encompasses five teams, each bringing specific capabilities and strengths into the combined effort. Specifically, the work plan will include synthesis and assembly of new polydiacetylene-containing sensing assemblies; characterization and optimization of their response parameters towards bacteria, aiming to adhere to industry-wide  and regulatory criteria, construction of prototypes for practical bacterial sensing, and validation in an industrial food processing settings. Overall, our goal is to introduce a new, comprehensive sensing platform which could be directly and widely implemented for alerting on bacterial contaminations in diverse settings.

About BARD (Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund)
BARD is a competitive funding program for mutually beneficial, mission-oriented, strategic and applied research of agricultural problems, jointly conducted by American and Israeli scientists. Most BARD projects focus on increasing agricultural productivity, particularly in hot and dry climates, and emphasize plant and animal health, food quality and safety, and environmental issues. BARD also supports international workshops. BARD offers fellowships for postdoctoral research, senior research scientists and graduate students. BARD is empowered to fund scientists affiliated with public or not-for-profit, private entities and to encourage the exchange of agricultural scientists, engineers or other agricultural experts.

During its 30 years of operation BARD has funded over 1000 projects with a total investment of more than $250 million. In addition it is administrating collaborative research between agricultural scientists in Israel and their colleagues in Canada and Australia.