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I-Corps: MultiRep Biofilm Reactor Customer Discovery


The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is to accelerate the discovery and development of new antimicrobial agents, including pharmaceuticals, disinfectants, preventative coatings, and more. Biofilms have serious economic and safety impacts on healthcare, food, industrial, and defense markets. They are responsible for an estimated $4.4B in annual healthcare costs from hospital acquired infections, $7B in costs from food borne illness, and billions of dollars in costs in lost agricultural crop production. In the industrial and defense industries, microbial induced corrosion from biofilms is estimated to be responsible for billions in costs per year. Novel anti-biofilm technologies are needed to reduce the safety and economic burdens of biofilms. In vitro screening of anti-biofilm activity is widely used in the discovery and development of anti-biofilm agents. Relevant research and development spending on in vitro screening is approximately $150M per year for companies developing disinfectants, $270M per year for companies developing antimicrobial drugs, and $140M per year for companies developing agrochemicals. <br/><br/>This I-Corps project is focused on a novel technology for growing highly accurate biofilms in vitro with significantly higher throughput than the current state-of-the-art. This new biofilm reactor can be used to grow biofilms for in vitro screening of anti-biofilm activity. It can grow up to 96 biofilm samples at once, and uses a flow-through setup to continuously pump fresh nutrients over biofilm cultures and recreate the conditions many biofilms experience outside of the lab. The biofilm reactor contains 12 channels, each channel containing 8 wells that accept a growth substrate (in the form of a 5mm diameter coupon disc) to culture the biofilm on. A variety of relevant growth substrate materials can be used to best replicate relevant conditions. A version of this new biofilm reactor has been made out of high-quality, autoclavable polypropylene and tested using Psuedomonas aeruginosa bacteria, a model biofilm forming organism. The biofilm reactor was able to reproducibly grow robust biofilms that were consistent from sample-to-sample.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Christine Salomon
University of Minnesota
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