Notre Dame, U.S. Navy to collaborate on new tool to diagnose infectious diseases

Author: Arnie Phifer


Researchers from the University of Notre Dame and the Naval Medical Research Center have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to collaborate on the engineering and application of a new field-deployable sensor for the detection of infectious disease pathogens, with initial focus on the detection of dengue fever.

“Our goal is to develop and evaluate a novel sensing platform that can be used to detect the RNA of infectious agents in patient samples during viral infection,” said Sunny Shah, Senior Scientist at Notre Dame and one of the project’s principal investigators. “Though the project addresses a problem of high military relevance, this research could have broad benefit for civilians as well.”

“Historically, among troops deployed to tropical areas, infectious diseases cause more casualties than enemy fire,” explained Shuenn-Jue Wu, Senior Scientist at the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC). “This kind of sensor could provide critical information and enable rapid response during an emerging infectious disease outbreak or a bioterrorism event.”

“By working cooperatively, we can leverage the extensive operational and scientific expertise of NMRC scientists with the valuable platform development expertise at Notre Dame.”

The agreement to conduct this research together sprang from a series of joint meetings and site visits organized in 2013 and 2014 and led by Hsueh-Chia Chang, Bayer Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Shah recently presented a talk at the Naval Medical Research Center and engaged in initial conversations for a collaborative project not only on dengue fever but other infectious diseases as well. Further, Shah’s experience in commercializing diagnostic technologies was recently spotlighted by the National Science Foundation.


The project builds on a recent grant award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research to detect the dengue virus in the mosquitos that carry it.

“Development of a cost-effective point-of-care diagnostic system for detection of dengue virus in field-caught mosquitoes is an immediate necessity as it provides a reliable tool to comprehend the virus circulating in nature, and helps in the designing of control strategies,” said Satyajyoti Senapati, Research Assistant Professor at Notre Dame and principal investigator on the recently funded NIH R21 grant.

The partnership with the NMRC is one of the latest to be facilitated and supported by the new precision medicine program within the university’s Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics initiative, and it builds on Notre Dame’s long history of cross-disciplinary research in infectious diseases and global health.

For more information, please contact: Sunny Shah at or 574-208-9622.

Photos: (1) A U.S. Navy doctor examines an Indonesian child during a medical civic action program in Ambon, Indonesia, July 2010 (credit: C. Anderson, U.S. Army); (2) Notre Dame researchers visit the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, MD (credit: S. Shah).

Originally published by Arnie Phifer at on November 19, 2014.