The Zhejiang University and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign are launching the Center for Pathogen Diagnostics (CPD) to create new detection systems that address limitations of current technologies, while leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze disease trends, analyze sensor data, and predict future outbreaks. The new devices – which will range from wearable sensors to mobile point-of-care devices to large laboratory instruments – will be able to detect pathogens that cause viral, bacterial, fungal, environmental, and food-borne illnesses.
As highlighted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the technologies and commercial products available for disease diagnosis and immunity determination include important limitations that drive cost, detection limits, time-to-result, sensitivity/selectivity against false results, and availability at the point of care. The shortcomings of COVID-19 diagnostics are representative of those used in the contexts of bacterial pathogens, fungal pathogens, vector-borne illness, food safety, and monitoring of environmental resources. The vision for the CPD is to establish a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research and development team to address significant technological and scientific gaps in the field of pathogen detection. Our goal is to establish a pipeline of innovation that includes identification of biological and structural characteristics of pathogens that can serve as a basis for next-generation detection techniques, sample preparation technologies that effectively separate target materials from complex media, ultra-selective molecular biology methods, ultra-sensitive biosensor signal transduction, mobile detection instruments, and machine learning tools that convert detection data into clinically relevant knowledge.