NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation

FORM B - PROPOSAL SUMMARY


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 03- II S4.05-8379
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Astrobiology
PROPOSAL TITLE: Lab-on-a-chip Astrobiology Analyzer

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Stuart Farquharson
stu@RTA.biz
87 Church Street
East Hartford, CT 06108-3728
(860)528-9806
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS)
The overall goal of this program (through Phase III) is to develop an analyzer to measure chemical signatures of life in extraterrestrial settings. The analyzer will employ a lab-on-a-chip to extract biochemical signatures from soil or water samples and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to detect and identify the signatures. The Phase I program successfully employed a metal-doped sol-gel to both chemically separate and generate SERS of amino acids in flowing water. This novel approach measured 19 of the 20 protein amino acids typically at 1 microg/mL (1 part-per-million) in 1 minute with estimated limits of detection of 10-100 nanog/mL (10-100 part-per-billion). The Phase II program will design, build and test a prototype lab-on-a-chip using 96 chemicals. The program includes a clear path to improving sensitivity by 4-orders of magnitude to part-per-trillion sensitivity. The prototype will be demonstrated at Hamilton Sundstrand's Pomona facilities to initiate a Phase III collaboration.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (LIMIT 100 WORDS)
The proposed analyzer would find immediate use in the rapidly growing field of proteomics. There is a need to better define the structure of proteins used as biomarkers of disease and as potential binding sites for new drugs. The proposed analyzer can provide the necessary amino acid sequence data to meet this need.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (LIMIT 100 WORDS)
The proposed lab-on-a-chip astrobiology analyzer will provide the ability to measure important biosignatures of extraterrestrial life. This will aid NASA in answering several fundamental questions regarding life, such as origin, evolution, and distribution. Measurements of biosignatures in Martian soil may also aid NASA in selecting a future sight for human exploration and habitation. In this case, the proposed lab-on-a-chip represents a low cost, reduced risk investment (especially at a mass of ~500g), in that it can be incorporated into planned mission hardware (e.g. Astrobiology Field Laboratory that will include an automated sample collection system and a Raman analyzer).