Gel-Tethered Molecular Beacons for Detection of Microbes

Invention Summary:

Pathogen detection and characterization is a critical first step in the course of care for individuals suffering from these infectious diseases, and the speed by which this pathogen detection occurs can make all the difference between life or death for many patients. Currently, the gold standard for microbe quantification is either DNA amplification by PCR or in-vitro culturing of microbial colonies. Despite PCR’s speed, its characterization ability is limited and cultures are still needed to fully inform the course of care. Such cultures often take days and in the context of acute and severe infections, patients may suffer serious injury or death before clinicians can even identify the pathogens responsible for their disease.

Rutgers researchers have developed a novel technology for the detection of microbial DNA in a rapid and highly sensitive manner that is faster than existing pathogenic culture methods while maintaining comparable or even increased characterization accuracy. By attaching quenched fluorescent probes to laser-cut hydrogel frames, a signal-to-background-ratio comparable to probes suspended in free liquid can be reached and adequate sensitivity for clinical use is achieved. The probes are unquenched and become fluorescent when they associate with target molecular signatures such as microbial DNA. Further, due to the 3-D nature of these microgels, the density of probes per unit area of the substrate exceeds the limit at which a flat surface would otherwise lead to interference. Therefore, this technology holds promise for enhancing efficiency and accuracy of diagnostic assays.

Market Applications:

  • Clinical diagnostic testing for microbes
  • Identification of specific molecular markers
  • Detection kits for use in life science research


  • Significantly faster read-out than PCR
  • Small logistical footprint
  • High specificity to virtually any target

Intellectual Property & Development Status: Issued Patent: US9340831B2Available for licensing and/or search collaboration. For any business development and other collaborative partnerships contact




Patent Information: