The Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded Illinois State University Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jeremy Driskell a grant to help soldiers exposed to illness or bioterrorism.

The nearly $178,000 grant will fund two years of Driskell’s research with the goal of increasing the speed of detecting and identifying viruses. “We’re hoping to develop a real-time diagnostic assay, meaning when a soldier is exposed to a toxin or virus or shows symptoms, those in the field would be able to immediately tell what the virus is and whether or not the solider needs to be sequestered,” said Driskell.

The grant, titled Flow-through Capture Filters for Enhancing Antibody-Antigen Binding Kinetics , details Driskell’s aim to study how fast antibodies can bind to viruses. “The idea is to push the limit of how fast antigens and antibodies bind,” said Driskell. “The faster they bind, the faster we get a response.” His efforts will create the science the DoD will need to create a faster method of detection in the field.

Driskell and his team will work with influenza virus to test the limits of increased detection. While Driskell estimates the DoD’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency can use the method to assist soldiers who are ill in the field, he anticipates the work truly a building block for applied work in future bio-terrorism projects. “There are other viruses that are higher on the Department of Defense’s list of concerns,” he said, “but once we understand the methodology with the flu, it should be applicable to just about any other system we want.” He added areas from ecology to the medical field could find the study valuable.

This is not Driskell’s his first grant with DoD. He worked on detecting viruses’ unique signature or “fingerprints” with the use of lasers during his time with the University of Georgia, where he also earned a grant from the National Science Foundation. Driskell joined the faculty of Illinois State in 2011.


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