In this application, AI Biosciences, Inc. (AIBI) proposes to develop and demonstrate the performance of a hand-held, versatile squeegee-aspirator surface sampler (SASS). Our device will aid Contamination Control (CC) and Planetary Protection (PP) implementation and verification. This SASS can perform diverse sampling tasks and help NASA to perform ISS and crew microbial tracking. The SASS operates in wet or dry, on flat or curved surfaces. This proposal will focus on fluid collection mode only. The SASS can deliver and store liquid samples in microgravity-compatible containers which can be stored or immediately tested without the need for post-collection elution steps. The current SASS (non-microgravity compatible) prototype can recover bacteria and fungi from surfaces below 50 CFU and gave positive results enumerated by plate count. It can also sample areas as large as 1 sq ft. Its vacuum function also allows it to sample porous materials (cloth and nylon). Closed environments such as the ISS and spacecraft for other planned interplanetary destinations require sustainable environmental control systems for manned spaceflight and habitation. These systems require monitoring for microbial contaminants and potential pathogens that could foul equipment or affect the health of the crew. Current sampling and post-collection processing are crew-time intensive. Therefore, our proposal is highly relevant to NASA’s mission. Phase I will allow us to design and 3D print the microgravity compatible squeegee and its storage containers. Due to the ease-of-use and small size, we anticipate we will be ready to test the sampling operation in drop-tower and zero-g flight to demonstrate a TRL level of 6 at the conclusion of Phase I. In Phase I, we will collaborate with microgravity fluidics experts Mark Weislogel and Ryan Jenson (IRPI, LLC), plus Professor Chris Mason, a microbiome and sequencing expert at Weill Cornell Medicine.
The SASS can effectively collect surface samples inside the ISS or NASA clean rooms. Our tools will enable:
--ISS and crew microbial tracking
--Microbial detection and monitoring in Advanced Life Support Systems
--Pathogen detection for space-grown food
--Long term environmental monitoring
Future applications (dry-vac mode):
--Sample indoor aerosol and particulates
--Monitor radiation exposure (planetary protection/astrobiology)
--Collect lunar and Martian dust
There are increased demands for an easy-to-use, effective and sensitive sampling method for the sequencing and nucleic acid testing market. Our technology is highly effective in recovering samples in localized areas using a small hand-held device. It can be deployed in infection control, environmental monitoring, food safety, crime scene investigations, and homeland security at check points.