April 12, 2010

Microbes-testing method is invention of the year

Amethod to quickly determine whether potentially harmful microbes are resistant to certain drugs has been named the year’s top invention at the Applied Physics Laboratory.

The winner was chosen from the 118 inventions reported by 218 APL staff members and collaborators in 2009. An independent panel of 30 representatives from industry, the high-tech sector and patent law selected the top invention based on its benefit to society, improvement over existing technology and commercial potential. Norma Lee Todd, acting director of Technology Transfer at APL, and Bharat Doshi, head of APL’s Milton Eisenhower Research Center, presented trophies and cash awards to the inventors during the Laboratory’s 11th annual Invention of the Year ceremony, held April 8 on the APL campus.

Invented by APL researchers Plamen Demirev, Miquel Antoine, Andrew Feldman, Nathan Hagan and Jeffrey Lin, the IsoMS-Drug-Array uses mass spectrometry to determine—in a fraction of the time required by current technologies—whether a microorganism is susceptible or resistant to one or more drugs. The method requires no prior identification or characterization of the organism; in fact, it can simultaneously characterize and identify the organism and determine its drug susceptibility or resistance in a matter of hours. Based on APL-developed algorithms, this novel method has potential applications in homeland defense, clinical microbiology, infectious disease treatment, and drug development and testing.

Twelve other inventions, covering areas ranging from materials and nanotechnologies to computer security and communications, were finalists for the award.

“Every day, our staff is called on to address the nation’s most critical technical challenges,” said APL Director Rich Roca. “These inventions are perfect examples of how APL’s best scientists and engineers apply their skills with innovation, imagination and creativity.”

Also at the event, former APL researcher Micah Carlson was named a Master Inventor, joining 22 other past and current APL staff members who have earned that honor by holding at least 10 patents.