Interview with Animal Pharm - Agribusiness Intelligence

Canadian researchers break new ground in nanotechnology diagnostics

By Malcolm Flanagan   (Link)   (Animal Pharm - Agri Business Intelligence)

Published: 11 May 2017 02:24 PM

Researchers at a Canadian laboratory have been attracting commercial interest from animal health companies for their work in detecting livestock diseases using super-fast nano-biotechnology diagnostics.

The five-year-old BioNano Laboratory at the University of Guelph in Ontario was created "to bring rapid real-time solutions to the animal health and food safety sectors".

Speaking to Animal Pharm from Guelph, Professor Neethirajan, who gained his doctorate at the University of Manitoba and has worked at the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said his research complex is specializing in the development of nano-biosensing platforms for animal health diagnostics and food safety.

Prof Neethirajan said the work of his research complex "is bringing down the time to results in diagnosing animal health from several days to minutes". This is also reducing the costs associated with shipping the samples from farms by enabling the producers and farmers to do testing on the farm at the point of care.

"The speed with which we can enable the real-time transmission of animal health data to the end users and the inspection agencies is the mandate of our BioNano Laboratory research projects. Through development of instruments, nano-biosensing platforms and communication tools we strive to achieve our stated goals of rapidly speeding up veterinary diagnostics," said Prof Neethirajan.

"We are developing tools and nano-biosensing platforms for early and incipient detection of foot and mouth disease, bluetongue epizootics, avian influenza, metabolic and Johne's disease of cows, bovine respiratory diseases, brucellosis and swine enteric coronavirus diseases. We are also focused on the development of wearable biosensors for smart farmed animal health management. At the same time, we are investigating biofilms for antifouling applications, food for health themed projects and development of biopharmaceuticals."

Recently, the BioNano Laboratory received funding from the 'supporting evidence-based interventions program' of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. This was made possible through support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Prof Neethirajan said IDEXX, Zoetis, Elanco and Danish dairy specialist DeLaval have expressed strong interest in the work of the Guelph team and their ongoing research and development projects. BioNano Laboratory is looking for collaborations with industries and companies that would help to translate and expedite the research results from the academic laboratory to real world applications

Transforming technology

"Nanoscience is transforming new technology into reality. The BioNano Laboratory takes a progressive stance in the agri-food sector by bringing advanced nanotechnology directly to the issue of animal health. We use a pro-active strategy involving precision livestock farming. This is an integrated system of mobile phones and internet tracks which transmits real-time data obtained from tiny, non-invasive biomarkers," said Prof Neethirajan.

"These can detect subclinical signs of animal disease at the molecular level. This sustained practice will give farmers the ability to better monitor the wellness and productivity of their flocks and herds. Nano biosensing platforms will detect infectious diseases in livestock prior to the expression of clinical signs and will reduce the time to obtain results on-farm in a real time fashion.

"The BioNano Laboratory will provide tools for early warning systems for smart livestock health management, and will contribute to global food security, health security and the economic well-being of those whose livelihoods are derived from animal production."

The Guelph researchers are working on technology that allows dairy farmers to detect metabolic diseases that affect milk production, as well as a rapid avian flu biosensor detection kit, and an efficient sex hormone detector for livestock.

The BioNano Laboratory has over 1,100 square feet of research space and utilizes state-of the-art equipment and instrumentation for projects such as cell culture experiments and live cell and nanoscale imaging. Such an environment can foster expertise and advancement in areas such as nanomaterial synthesis, biosensor development, microbiology, and prototype design and validation. The complex has more than 50 staff including 15 scientists.

Nanotechnology strategies

In 2013, a Swedish scientist said nanotechnology can be used to make veterinary medicines more efficient by targeting delivery systems for optimum impact. David Carlander of the Brussels-based Nanotechnologies Association said targeted delivery systems could reduce the amount of veterinary medicines used in treating diseases. This would lead to healthier animals, fewer residues in food and potentially shorter withholding periods.

Mr Carlander said nanotechnology could allow a veterinary medicine to pass unaffected through the gastrointestinal tract to the animal’s systematic circulation and then be released at the desired location.

He claimed nanotechnology could assist in the development of new antimicrobial treatments as an alternative to conventional antibiotics. In addition, he indicated nanoparticles could be used as adjuvants for vaccination purposes whilst 'bio bullets' made of photopolymerized PEG hydrogels could be used to vaccinate wild animals.

Just recently, a Danish water treatment specialist CM Aqua Technologies said it believed it is making a breakthrough in treating sea lice, bacteria and pathogens in marine aquaculture complexes. The Farum-headquartered company is working on a nanotechnology bubble system which it says could improve the health of salmon and help remove deadly sea lice from the skin of the fish.

The firm is developing its 'Nano1System' which creates a magnetic field inside fish cages and generates intense strings of extremely small bubbles. The firm claims this process purifies water and removes sea lice and pollutants and takes them to the surface. The equipment floats at the bottom of marine fish cages. It can also be used in fresh water aquaculture complexes.


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Bionanotechnology Laboratory
Suresh Neethirajan

School of Engineering
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario
Canada N1G 2W1

Room 3513 - Richards Building
50 Stone Road East

Lab: THRN 2133 BioNano Lab

Phone: (519) 824-4120 Ext 53922
Fax: (519) 836-0227


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