David Ecker, co-founder of Ibis Biosciences Inc., and a team of researchers developed a sensor able to quickly detect and identify all the pathogens in a given sample. MicroBiology Super Fast Pathogen Identifier
The equipment promises not only to alert health officials to new disease strains, but also to guard against bioterrorism and enable hospitals to identify antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Ibis Biosciences employs a unique solution for the identification of biological organisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. It is also a powerful tool for human forensics.
Abbott's Ibis Biosciences unit T5000 is the overall Wall Street Journal 2009 Technology Innovation Award Gold winner. The technology takes a novel approach to detecting and identifying pathogens. When faced with unidentified organisms, clinical labs typically have to incubate infected fluid or tissue samples and test them for bacteria or viruses. Newer microarray technologies can run thousands of such tests simultaneously. But they are expensive and require lots of high-quality genetic material for their analyses, making them less than ideal for diagnostic purposes, says Mr. Ecker, a divisional vice president at Abbott. (Last year's Silver award winner, the PhyloChip, is a microarray system for detecting bacteria in water and other environmental samples.)
Ibis uses a combination of technologies to identify organisms: mass spectrometry a way of identifying the molecules that make up a sample by measuring their mass and charge to determine the genetic markers of the organisms in a sample; a vast database of genetic signatures for different organisms; and a mathematical process to match the analysis with the signatures in the database. The test not only can reveal all the known organisms present in the sample, it also can also flag previously unknown organisms. Since the first system was completed in 2005, Ibis sensors have been deployed in 20 sites around the U.S., including the Centers for Disease Control. This spring, the device helped the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego to identify the first two cases of the H1N1 swine flu in the U.S. Abbott, a health-care company based in Abbott Park, Ill., acquired Ibis earlier this year.