Detection of toxic small molecules using polymers and Raman scattering

A method to capture small molecules using polymers for quantitative detection using surface-enhanced Raman scattering.
Technology No. 2020-248
IP Status: Provisional Patent Application Filed; Application #: 63/107,117


  • Food safety testing

Key Differentiators and Benefits

  • Facile and less expensive way to detect mycotoxins
  • Multiplex detection of mycotoxins using one test and one affinity agent
  • Quantitative measurement of small molecule may be possible
  • Detection possible in complex matrices

Technology Overview

Mycotoxins are small molecule toxins produced from fungi that contaminate a wide variety of crops. These small molecules can be extremely carcinogenic to humans, posing dangerous hazards in food production and consumption. Detecting mycotoxins traditionally employs the use of specific affinity agents. These detection methods, however, are expensive, do not offer the opportunity to detect a multitude of toxins in complex matrices, and are often qualitative.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a new method for capturing and detecting small molecule toxin targets such as mycotoxins. This method utilizes linear polymers, with commercially available monomers, as capture agents for various small molecules. Using multiplex surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS), a single polymer affinity agent can facilitate multiplex detection of a class of molecules through less-specific interactions than traditional affinity agents. In other words, by providing fingerprint spectra for various targets, one can easily detect more than one target mycotoxin in relevant complex matrices. Lastly, polymer affinity agents exhibit heightened flexibility in solution, thus enabling optimal polymer-target binding that is not achievable when pre-anchored to the substrate.

Phase of Development

TRL: 3-4
Proof of concept. Researchers have demonstrated detection of two different small molecule targets of interest: deoxynivalenol and ochratoxin A. These mycotoxins are naturally produced from fungi that contaminate various types of crops and feedstocks. They can be detected at the low concentrations they are regulated at, 1 ppm and 5 ppb for deoxynivalenol and ochratoxin A, respectively.

Desired Partnerships

This technology is now available for:
  • License
  • Sponsored research
  • Co-development

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