The Portable EnGineered Analytic Sensor with aUtomated Sampling (PEGASUS) is a miniaturized waveguide-based optical sensor that can detect toxins, bacterial signatures, viral signatures, biothreats, white powders, and more from samples such as blood, water, food, and animal samples.
PEGASUS does not require trained personnel or laboratory equipment to operate, which means it can be used easily in remote areas of the world. It can discriminate between bacterial and viral signatures, allowing for the proper choice of treatment, which should improve health outcomes of patients and decrease the spread of antimicrobial resistance. The sensor includes an integrated sample-processing device with minimal hands-on steps aimed at ensuring every sample is of the quality needed for detection.
Detection occurs in two major steps. First, the sample is processed in a microfluidic device, which requires only a small sample volume. Next, the processed sample is loaded onto the miniaturized sensor, where detection occurs. The microfluidic device and sensor can be packaged up into a rugged briefcase that can be brought anywhere in the world.
The device’s technology is based on a benchtop waveguide-based optical biosensor. The sensing system detects analytes on a planar optical waveguide surface in a very small (~200nm) field. To produce the sensing field, a laser is coupled at a critical angle of incidence into the planar waveguide and total internal reflection of light occurs between the layers of the waveguide due to their different refractive indices. This causes an evanescent field to radiate off the surface of the waveguide where fluorescent molecules are detected.
PEGASUS can rapidly detect infection in a doctor’s office, a remote clinic, or a laboratory. In the case of bacterial infections, it can discriminate among Gram-positive, -negative, and indeterminate sources, without prior knowledge of the infection type, in 15 to 30 minutes. Another potential impact is in the field of bio-surveillance. Since the biosensor can be used in remote areas of the world and can detect a variety of biological molecules from a variety of sources, it can have impact in monitoring the presence of potential biothreat agents or outbreaks. The sensor can detect the presence of biomolecules from food sources or the water supply and can help to identify unknown white powders that are mailed in suspicious packages or spilled on the highway.