Viral lasers represent a disruptive breakthrough in biological sensing with the potential to unlock new avenues of discovery in health research and the life sciences. The interdisciplinary technology bridges laser physics and synthetic biology to tackle biological sensing problems. The inventive use of laser phenomena gives the technology its unprecedented signal generation capabilities, but the role of synthetic biology is equally important, enabling target biomolecules to be bound with the same affinity as state-of-the-art antibody probes.
This will have significant impact for biomedical researchers. For example, a researcher might want to measure levels of a biomolecule in a sample by binding a probe to those biomolecules and recording the signal generated by the bound probes. Using existing technologies, a 50% increase in number of probes would result in a 50% increase in signal, which might be difficult to detect against the background noise. Experimental data from our early studies show that with viral lasing, a 50% increase in number of probes would result in a greater than 1,000,000% increase in the signal, providing a conclusive answer to the research problem. Any researcher who has ever experienced the ambiguity of an immunoassay test where the qualitative assessment of biomarker levels was critical to interpretation of the experiment will appreciate the digital precision associated with a biochemical solution being definitively either below or above a lasing threshold.
Within the next decade, we will establish a new commercial platform for biological detection based on viral lasers. In drug discovery research, the platform will report on levels of multiple biomolecules with unprecedented precision and sensitivity. In industry, the platform will monitor product levels throughout bioprocesses, helping to identify problems sooner and more cost-effectively. Beyond this, an open innovation model will be employed to ensure that no aspect of the technology is “left on the shelf”, maximising its utility to the European economy.
In this project, we will build on our IP, technical expertise and market research to overcome barriers to commercial development of two key components of the technology: laser photometers and viral-lasing detection probes. Key objectives are: 1) Replace the expensive laser-based light source in the laser photometer with a cheaper LED alternative, and 2) Demonstrate a new lasing detection probe manufacturable in contract manufacturing facilities. Completion of these objectives will advance the state of technological readiness to pre-commercial levels and address key questions regarding the long-term feasibility of the technology.
The ambitious invention of the viral laser has created a novel, interdisciplinary technology with clear potential. The next phase on the pathway to impact will require an equally ambitious source of funding. The ATTRACT call stands out as an ideal programme to stimulate and support this project.