The successful projects will leverage the $500,000 investment with additional funding to bring the total investment to $1.6m over the 18 month life of the projects.
The aim is that the research effort will result in genomic-based detection methods that can be used in industry settings, that is more sensitive, faster, and cheaper than currently available technologies.
Currently, turn-around time for most testing methods is around 10 hours and is typically conducted in a laboratory.
Rapid detection aim
The first project receiving funding is titled "Rapid Sampling and Detection of STEC in Meat" and is led by researchers Linda M. Pilarski and Lynn McMullen from the University of Alberta.
At the university the researchers will modify an existing molecular testing platform for rapid detection of pathogenic E. coli.
This platform requires minimal capital equipment, can be used by existing staff and completes the testing in under an hour, using machine intelligence to report results.
It will adapt miniaturized technology that needs only minimal human intervention, to produce a commercially viable test that meets the requirements of health regulators. Because fast turnaround testing requires a faster sampling method to prepare meat for testing, the Pilarski-McMullen research team will also develop improved sampling strategies.
Its speed, capacity, and cost make this platform well suited for regular on-site testing in abattoirs and meat processing plants. This will reduce the time and cost for identification of pathogenic bacteria during meat processing and in meat products.
The second project is “Point-of-Need Gene-Based System for Detection of Priority STEC in Beef" led by Michel G. Bergeron of Université Laval and of Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec (affiliated with Université Laval) and Burton W. Blais with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
STEC7 project undertaken by the research consortium assembled by Bergeron and Blais is to develop a novel test method enabling the detection of less than 10 Shiga toxin- and verotoxin-producing E.coli (STEC) cells present in 325g of ground or trim beef, by real-time PCR in less than eight hours, such that E.coli-free production lots can be marketed more rapidly.
The STEC7 panel, composed of seven E.coli serotypes, is a top priority of food inspection agencies in Canada and the US.
Funding partners the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, Genome Quebec, and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Rural Affairs are also involved in the project which was announced in November last year.