Q: How's the tool work?
A: We have designed a plate that works like the piezoelectric tuning forks that keep quartz watches ticking on time. The plate is very thin with a crystalline structure that facilitates electrically driven oscillation. The slightest change to this structure results in a change in the pitch of the oscillation. This is significant because the surface of the crystals can then be utilized to catch certain DNA molecules. So, when the plate contains a few molecules of C. difficile taken from a stool sample, its tune changes, letting technicians know it's C. difficile.
Q: Research funding?
A: We have funding from the National Institutes of Health, small-business grants.
Q: Value proposition?
A: Our plate sensor gives us an advantage over tests on the market right now for C. difficile, which require a complicated process of isolating and amplifying DNA from a sample before you can confirm the infection. These tests require expensive equipment that isn't available in 80 percent of hospitals, and samples have to be sent off to a lab. Our technology eliminates all those steps; is simple, inexpensive and portable; testing can be done in the field; and you will have the results in 30 to 40 minutes.
Q: Potential customers?
A: The initial target customers will be small and medium-size hospitals, nursing homes.
Q: Who gets C. difficile?
A: Nursing-home patients, older people on antibiotics and with weak immune systems.
Q: Biggest challenge?
A: We need a box we can deploy in the field or a clinic. We need about $2 million to build a prototype and do clinical trials.
Q: What's next?
A: We'll apply this winter for a federal grant of up to $3 million to develop the prototype. If approved, probably next year at this time we'll get some funds. We've been talking to product-development companies to turn the technology into a box. It can be built in 12 to 18 months.
Q: Any employees?
A: Me, my husband and two research assistants.
On Twitter: @MHinkelman