Dr. Shuenn-Jue Wu, a senior scientist at the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), attended a planning meeting at the University of Notre Dame for a National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal for an Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Portable Nanosensor Diagnostics (PANDA).
Contingent on NSF funding, the center will explore nanotechnologies as diagnostic systems for public health and water quality monitoring in low-resource settings such as developing countries, rural clinics, and military operational environments.
Notre Dame sought Wu’s expertise in viral and rickettsial diseases and would like to include DoD OCONUS laboratories as a global test bed for infectious disease diagnostics relevant to military personnel. Wu’s participation in PANDA potentially enables the DoD to guide and influence critical technology development.
PANDA has the potential to develop diagnostic devices with price points and efficacies that can solve sustainability concerns, especially for militarily relevant diseases with a small U.S. market. Wu hopes to integrate promising and suitable products developed by PANDA into NMRC’s intramural research and development efforts for fielding in future biodetection efforts.
Attendees from the government, industry, and academia were represented. Each participant discussed current and future needs in diagnostic and molecular sensing technologies from their perspective and outlined their possible involvement in the center. A special panel was held to discuss the challenges inherent in developing new diagnostics for low-resource settings, which is a particular focus of the PANDA ERC.
Participants on the panel included Wu, Dr. Jean Claude Kazadi from Catholic Relief Services and Dr. Michael Lochhead from MBio Diagnostics. They shared the obstacles faced and opportunities afforded to those building new devices for military, humanitarian, and commercial purposes.
Dr. Wu presented highlights about DoD diagnostics requirements, Army/Navy global research sites, and NMRC’s track record for scientific contributions in this field.