Lab News

Biosensor Detects Norovirus on the Spot, in One Hour - Food Safety Tech (link)  


Researchers from Guelph-based Bionano Laboratory have a developed a nanotechnology sensor for rapid detection at the point of care.

Norovirus has returned to the headlines following the latest outbreak at the PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea. Researchers at Bionano Laboratory in Guelph, Canada are trying to prevent such outbreaks with the development of a nanotechnology-based biosensor that can identify foodborne viruses at the point of care.


“Our nanotech biosensor boasts of a microfluidic platform duly integrated with graphene-gold nano-composite aptasensor that has shown to help with one-step norovirus detection. We have been able to detection the norovirus with in an hour with superior sensitivity with our state-of-the art device.” – Suresh Neethirajan, Bionano Lab

Designed for use in the field, the paper-based microfluidic device has a screen-printed carbon electrode that enables electrochemical virus detection within an hour. Its chip is packed with silica microbeads zones to filter and enrich a Norovirus-infected sample. The researchers also state that the biosensor is designed to be simple and cost effective. They have published two papers demonstrating the effectiveness of the device, one in Microchimica Acta (Apramer-based fluorometric determination of norovirus using paper-based microfluidic device) and the other in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

Agro-defense: Biosensors for food from healthy crops and animals

Suresh Neethirajan, K.V. Ragavan, Xuan Weng  (Link)



•  Plant and animal pathogens are a serious threat to food safety and security.•  Plant and animal pathogens cause wide range of serious illnesses in humans.•  Biosensors equip farmers to screen pathogens and produce safe food.•  Biosensors assist in controlling the spread of pathogens and foodborne illness.•  Novel biosensor platforms for agro-defense are discussed along with their future scope. 



Infectious diseases are a leading cause of death in humans, animals, and plants globally. Pathogen infections can reduce food production and endanger biodiversity. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi are therefore scientifically and economically important in food production. Even outbreaks of a pathogen infection in plants or animals have direct consequences for the food chain and human health.

Scope and approach

Microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and virus invade plant cells and utilize the host resources for their survival disturbing the plant or animal metabolism leading to diseases. Advance diagnosis and effective detection of pathogens, infectious diseases, and other parameters affecting the health of animals and plants in agro-defense will assist in reducing financial costs, increasing food production, and improving the global economy. In this article, common pathogens and infectious diseases in animals and plants, along with the point-of-care technologies that address them, are reviewed.

Key findings and conclusions

The synthesis and discovery of novel nanomaterials and the fabrication of highly specific and sensitive biosensors have expanded the scope for effective agro-defense biosensors. Progress in biosensor development and the existing challenges are reviewed to provide future directions in this field.

Big Congratulations :-) to Nicholas (Nick) Vanstone, MSc student of the BioNano Lab for winning the 2018 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers - Visual Challenge Award. Download the magazine page (PDF) Access the Full Resource Magazine link 


FLEA - Magnified image detailing the front half of a flea taken from a veterinary sample. Artificially colored scanning electron microscope image taken with a Hitachi S-4500 SEM.


FUNGUS - Magnified image of the fungus Cytospora sp. growing on the bark of an apple tree. Dissecting microscope image taken with a Nikon SMZ1500


The members of the BioNanoLab has been winning this award since 2010.  Past year's awards and the photo submissions can be found in the link -


Nanotechnology to alter animal health, food systems

by Robin Booker  (Article in The Western Producer Magazine) - Link


Biological sensors based on nanotechnology are being developed by Canadian researchers and may soon be commonplace on Canadian farms.

A biosensor device relies on a biological element such as an enzyme or bacterium to react with a target substance such as a spore or virus. This reaction is monitored by a transducer that converts the biological response into an electrical signal.

For instance, research scientist Susie Li is developing a biosensor that can differentiate sclerotinia spores from other spores in the air.

Li, who works at Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, developed the biosensor’s chip with gold nanoparticles bonded to it. These nanoparticles are also attached to antibodies that only attach to sclerotinia spores. When the antibodies attach to a sclerotinia spore, the gold nanoparticle sends a signal to a transducer connected to wireless technology. “You transmit that signal to a little box, like Bluetooth technology, and then that can transfer to an electronic device like a cellphone. You just need to download an app and then you can use it,” Li said. 



Suresh Neethirajan, director of the Bio Nano Laboratory at the University of Guelph, holds a device he helped develop that uses nanobiosensors on paper test strips to detect multiple kinds of virus, bacteria and food allergens. 

This sensor can send farmers text messages when a specific threshold of sclerotinia spores has been reached in their fields.

“I hope it could be a revolution because right now, you have to go to the field to find out and it’s time consuming. It’s also because you have to pick up a diseased leaf or petals and then you send that back to a lab,” Li said.

It currently takes days to get results back from a laboratory when testing for sclerotinia, and the spraying window for the disease is very short in canola.

The sclerotinia detector Li built can detect as few as five sclerotinia spores.

She is currently miniaturizing the detector and expects a field-ready model to be on the market within five years.

Nanotechnology-based biosensors being developed at Ontario’s University of Guelph are currently being licensed and they are expected to be available within a few years, said Suresh Neethirajan, director of the Bio Nano Laboratory at the university.

He said biosensors based on nanotechnology are set to revolutionize the farm and food sector.

The mandate of the Bio Nano Laboratory is to enhance animal health and food safety through nanotechnology approaches.

University researchers have developed a hand-held nano-biosensor that uses paper-based test strips similar to home-based glucometers. Users put a droplet of material, such as food, oral swabs from poultry, or blood solution from the dairy cow or swine, in the cartridge. Users know immediately if the specific substance or disease they are testing for is present.

Depending on which paper-based biosensor has been installed in the hand-held device, a whole hosts of pathogens and diseases can be detected — from numerous flu diseases in poultry and swine to ketosis or metabolic diseases in dairy cattle, or many kinds of food that can give allergic reactions.

Currently, when there’s an avian flu outbreak in a Canadian poultry barn it takes days to know exactly which disease is present because samples have to be shipped to a centralized animal health laboratory.

“These biosensors enable the farmers to know the results by bringing down the time for the results from several days to a few minutes, so that’s one of the key advantages,” Neethirajan said.

The biosensors offer another key advantage when it comes to infectious disease outbreaks because they can be linked in a network.

The sensors are also much easier on animals when it comes to testing because only a droplet of blood or saliva is needed.

The biosensors can also be integrated into existing monitoring systems in barns.

“That will enable the farmers to basically download an app and then periodically or in a specific frequency, it can record data in a noninvasive way.

“For example, when a bird pecks to take water, or pecks to take a grain or a seed, based on the interaction of the beak to a particular zone, we have some trace of the oral swab in fluids left over that is good enough to be able to call up in terms of screening for specific pathogenic micro-organisms,” Neethirajan said.

Biosensors are also being integrated into robot milkers in dairy barns, and can be installed on wearables such as a dairy cow’s collar.

The hand-held device developed by the Bio Nano Laboratory has biosensor cartridges that can screen for a variety of allergens such as peanut, shrimp, and gluten in food, which is particularly useful in areas with limited resources, such as remote communities.

The Bio Nano Laboratory has also developed paper-based biosensors that children with food allergies can use.

“They can dip the paper in the food solution, based on the colour change they can decide whether to eat or not to eat,” Neethirajan said.

Food processors can integrate these nano-biosensors into production lines to look for specific materials, which could dramatically change how food manufacturers test, he said.

Trade Show Highlights Student Innovation, Attracts Local MP

November 13, 2017:  11:30 am to 1:00 pm

From a medical brassiere that assists healing after breast cancer surgery to an electronic glove that helps a deaf-blind person communicate more easily, University of Guelph students have come up with about two dozen bioengineering prototypes that can help improve life.

They were displayed Monday during a bio-instrumentation trade show as part of the ENGG*4390 Bio-Instrumentation Design course taught by Professor Suresh Neethirajan of the University of Guelph. The School of Engineering atrium teemed with people and ideas that may help the biomedical, health care, food and agricultural industries. 

Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield toured the displays, talked with the undergraduate developers, and spoke of the importance of student research and innovation.

“It is so good to see the work going on here – practical work, where you are learning design, and you’re also learning how to get it to a point where other people can understand what ideas you’re developing,” Longfield said.

He said the trade show is an excellent showcase of how products are developed and career paths embarked upon.

Longfield’s visit to U of G was part of Universities Canada’s Bold Thinking, Better Solutions campaign, aimed at connecting local MPs with universities to highlight students and researchers driving economic, social and cultural innovation.

Hannah Milan, Victoria Champion and Caitland Boulos developed the Healing Assist Bra prototype. It was inspired by a commercial product that uses multiple sensors in a pair of leggings to measure the wearer’s exact jean size.

“We first saw that the same application could work for bra sizes,” Boulos said. “Then we started thinking that it could have a medical application.”

About 29,000 Canadian women undergo breast cancer surgery each year, the students said. Most post-surgery recovery takes place at home. Intended for use after a mastectomy or lumpectomy, the Healing Assist Bra contains temperature and moisture sensors that alert the wearer to a potential wound infection or when it’s time to change dressings.



Carlos Lopez, Karine Jarzecki and Daiana Spaturu developed the TacTalk personal communication device. The glove senses gestural information, converting it from touch to text.

“Having this kind of hands-on research experience is invaluable,” Lopez said of the project.

He said he went into engineering because of the deep-rooted problem-solving potential in the field, as well as to be able to produce a prototype that actually works.

“Through this project, I was able to become more aware of the community we are trying to help,” he added. “From an engineering and understanding perspective, putting what you learn in lectures toward actually manufacturing something helps you understand those concepts even further.”

Longfield’s visit to campus comes as the federal government is mulling over the recommendations of the Fundamental Science Review Panel, or Naylor Report, in the lead-up to the 2018 budget. The report recommends a major reinvestment in discovery research at the university level, a scaling up of capacity to attract top minds from around the world, and enhanced support for research and innovation leaders.

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