Signature Science LLC
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Biological Threat Detection
Our Approach
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Signature Science biologists specialize in the collection, isolation, production, extraction, and detection of biological threat agents. Our scientists' knowledge of biological threat signature characteristics has been applied to the successful development, optimization, and validation of biological agent detection systems for over 15 years. A team of highly educated microbiologists, molecular biologists, forensics scientists, and chemists understand the chemical processes and mechanisms of action involved in microbial and human signature extraction and detection. With an intimate understanding of the biochemistry of the sample matrix, target analytes, and reaction reagents, Signature Science develops novel signature extraction procedures from difficult and previously undetectable collection matrices such as urine, leather, textiles, clay, soil, honeybees, pollen, and more. We provide detection solutions that span a wide array of unique microbial signatures such as fatty acids, lipopolysaccharides, nucleic acids, proteins, growth media constituents, and metabolic products. Our solutions integrate traditional “gold standard” microbiological analyses such as culture, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and antibody-antigen interactions with rapid, cutting edge technologies that are traditionally reserved for chemical agent extraction and detection.

We use our experience and expertise in biological detection systems and extensive knowledge of biological threat agents to offer and provide support to first responders and regulatory agencies to help improve and streamline collection procedures and analysis methods. Signature Science also provides proficiency testing to clients, giving them opportunities to test their personnel and detection systems for technical proficiency. To ensure that the highest quality results and assistance are delivered to clients, biologists work in conjunction with staff members from other disciplines within Signature Science such as statisticians, chemists, and quality assurance personnel in the production and quality testing of the biological test samples and during evaluation of client proficiency.

Our Staff
The staff that supports our biological threat detection area specializes in forensic science, entomology, microbiology, molecular biology, immunology, public health, biological threat agents, production processes, and detection technologies. Our biologists' experience includes:
  • Microbial detection via mass spectrometry-based protein, fatty acid, and nucleic acid analysis
  • HPLC detection of microbial lipopolysaccharides
  • Isolation, culture, and identification of biological threat agents and their surrogates
  • Real-time PCR quantification and quantification assay design
  • Real-time PCR threat agent detection, assay design, and validation
  • Antibody based detection (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), enzymatic chemiluminescence (ECL),  hand-held assay (HHA))
  • Nuclear STR DNA and mitochondrial DNA
  • Capillary electrophoresis-based genetic analysis
  • Sample collection, preservation, and processing techniques
  • Biological threat agent identification and detection training and training on threat agent/weapons of mass destruction (WMD) production processes
Specialized Equipment/Facilities
The biological laboratories serve six individual but related disciplines: general microbiology, molecular biology, biological quality control/quality assurance, biological/chemical treatability, water quality, and biochemistry.

The Signature Science on-site biological laboratories operate at a Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) and are equipped to perform isolation, cultivation, and identification of microorganisms including aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and viruses and their signatures. These laboratories include incubators, water baths, shaker tables, autoclaves, microscopes (bright field, phase contrast, and fluorescent), other microbial culture (aerobic and anaerobic) and identification equipment. Biothreat agent culturing and identification activities are performed at partnering facilities.

Signature Science’s biochemistry laboratories include equipment for detection of microbial and human forensics signatures (proteins, fatty acids, lipopolysaccharides, nucleic acids, media constituents, metabolic byproducts, etc.) such as: gas chromatographs (GCs), high performance liquid chromatographs (HPLCs), and ultra-high pressure liquid chromatographs (UPLCs) coupled to a variety of mass spectrometers (including single and triple quadrupoles, linear quadrupole ion traps, and high resolution OrbitrapsTM). Several ionization techniques are available to complement our mass spectrometry instruments, including ambient ionization techniques such as desorption electrospray ionization (DESI), desorption atmospheric chemical ionization (DAPCI), and direct analysis in real-time (DART), in addition to traditional ionization methods (electron ionization (EI), chemical ionization (CI), electrospray ionization (ESI), atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI)). Spectroscopy techniques available include ultraviolet-visible-near infrared spectrophotometry (UV-VIS-NIR), fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) (transmittance and attenuated total reflection (ATR)), fluorimetry and Raman. 

Signature Science’s molecular biology laboratories include Applied Biosystems PRISM® 7000 Sequence Detection System and a Ruggedized Advanced Pathogen Detection (R.A.P.I.D.®) System, including Joint Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic Systems (JBAIDS) updated software. This laboratory also has the capability of standard DNA amplification and electrophoresis and primer and probe design. Nuclear STR DNA and Mitochondrial DNA capillary genetic analyses are performed off-site within partnering laboratories.
 
The biological quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) laboratory supports QA projects by providing environmental (e.g., soil, water) and other (e.g., swabs, gauze, filters, blood) matrix reference standards.
 
The biological/chemical treatability laboratory is equipped to perform a variety of laboratory and bench-scale testing. This laboratory maintains an inventory of bench-scale equipment for testing bioprocesses and biosystems and for testing physical/chemical processes for use in combination with biological processes. The equipment in this laboratory includes batch and flow-thru bioreactors, feed pumps, oxygen, oxidation reduction potential (ORP) and pH monitoring/control equipment, analytical equipment for conventional pollutant parameters (e.g., biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), nitrogen species, phosphate), and a Microtox® toxicity analyzer.

Applications
Specific applications of our biological detection capabilities include the following:
  • Novel analytical method development
  • Detection assay validation 
  • Sample collection development and improvement
  • Biological threat agent detection and identification training
  • Proficiency test provider
Current and Past Experience Customer Listing
Signature Science has recent and ongoing experience working with the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and related agencies.
 
 
Microtox® is a registered trade mark of AZUR environmental.