Smiths Detection’s BioFlash :Breakthrough for SARS-CoV-2 Aerosol Detection

Sub Title : Detection focused on a smarter and faster approach

Issues Details : Vol 15 Issue 2 May – Jun 2021

Author : Defstrat Editorial Team

Page No. : 26

Category : Military Technology

: July 1, 2021

Smiths Detection, a global leader in threat detection and security screening technologies, has announced that its Bioflash Biological Identifier is capable of detecting airborne Covid-19, positioning the technology as an effective environmental monitoring tool. Smiths Detection’s team based at its Baltimore, MD-, location has developed the capability to detect the airborne Sars-CoV-2 virus with its BioFlash Biological identifier, which can greatly help in the detection and in consequence the mitigation of Covid 19. The development is a very important step in the battle against Covid 19.

The spread of COVID-19 occurs rapidly, and PCR testing lengthens contact tracing immensely. The endeavor has to be to find out exposure risks sooner by testing the air for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 and then locate the source and stop the spread. COVID-19 presents an issue with rapid transmissions occurring before a positive case is even identified. Potential challenges in current environment include.

♦ Clustered COVID-19 outbreaks among individuals.

♦ Reduction of staff due to illness and/or quarantines.

♦ Spread from individuals to families.

♦ Delays in work processes.

♦ Shut-downs.

♦ Cost of decontamination efforts.

♦ Other mitigation costs.

BioFlash Biological Identifier

The BioFlash Biological Identifier is a bio-aerosol collection and identification system. It uses CANARY technology along with proprietary aerosol collection techniques to provide a low-risk, cost-effective biological sampling and identification solution for environmental monitoring.

The BioFlash Biological Identifier provides rapid, sensitive and specific identification of various diseases and common biothreat agents such as anthrax, ricin, botulinum toxin, black plague, tularemia and smallpox. BioFlash has also been proven to detect airborne SARS-CoV-2 by the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

The high performance aerosol sampler is portable, durable and capable of taking high sample volumes in short periods of time.

The portable, compact and easy to use BioFlash Biological Identifier offers breakthrough capabilities in sampling performance. The BioFlash operates using BioDisc consumables that contain genetically engineered biosensors, expressing both the agent-specific antibodies and the calcium-sensitive bioluminescent molecules that are needed to produce light emission. Each BioDisc contains sixteen cuvettes with different agent-specific biosensors in specific cuvettes. This allows more than one agent of interest to be detected and identified.

The BioFlash often used as a free-standing unit placed on a desk, worktop, or portable cart at various locations onsite where groups of people work and congregate. The BioFlash can be used following an identified COVID-positive case to ensure safe re-entry into a space, on a monitoring basis to find out in near real-time if the virus is present in the air, and on a preventative basis to ensure high-risk areas and high-risk individuals are safe prior to entering a space.

Testing the air with exposure risk after discovering a COVID-positive case. This allows on site confirmation that an environment is safe to re-enter and guide cleaning protocols. The BioFlash can also be placed in high-risk locations to validate mitigation efforts and lower concern of transmission. Continued periodic testing can aid in early detection, lowering time for contact tracing and detecting the source instantly. The BioFlash can support transition back to full capacity with routine testing throughout buildings. The BioFlash does not require any lab processes or user interpretation. A Hepa filter attachment scrubs air during detection process.

Consumables are in the form of a single use disc. Simply turn unit on, open tray, insert disc, close tray, collect air and see results. The discs are single use tests for one time analysis of a space.

Developed by MIT Lincoln Lab, CANARY technology uses genetically engineered cells to accurately identify pathogens of interest in minutes.

Key Benefits

♦             On-site detection

♦             Rapid Results (3 minutes)

♦             Semi-Portable

♦             High Sensitivity and Specificity


CANARY Technology: How does it work?

Developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, CANARY technology uses genetically engineered cells to accurately identify pathogens of interest in minutes. Certain characteristics are :-

♦ High Sensitivity. If the pathogen is present, it will bind to the biosensor, and that binding event will create a luminescent reaction. By measuring light output from the cell, we can tell if the target biological is present in seconds.

♦ Ease of Use. The software algorithm automatically interprets the data for you, giving you the timely results, you need.

♦ Flexibility. Is being commercially used for biowarfare agent detection. New SARS CoV-2 biosensor created to help with COVID mitigation. Ability to create new biosensors for biological agents of concern.

In six out of six aerosol tests, the BioFlash detected down to an estimated 6000 infectious particles of COVID-19. This compares to 1,000,000 environmental particles released from a human sneeze.


The performance of the BioFlash  has been duly validated in real-world scenarios with the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and University of Oregon.

A student working in a research facility tested positive for COVID 19 on a diagnostic test. The ESH team used the BioFlash to test the facility’s air in three locations and received no positive result helping to confirm the space was safe to re-enter for students and staff, who could be comfortable in the knowledge that the area was COVID-free.

An aerosol test conducted in a locker room following a team’s practice resulted in a positive detection on the BioFlash. As the result of the positive environmental test, UMBC was immediately able to have the team and staff tested for COVID 19 and found that three individuals were positive for COVID 19.

Test were also performed in quarantine on individuals who had tested positive COVID-19. The BioFlash identified aerosolized virus, at the detectable range generated via human shedding, in rooms where the presence of SARS-CoV-2 was also detected by environmental swabs.

In uncertain times such as these prevention is not only better than cure, but also an important method in breaking the chain which is vital for defeating the pandemic. Innovations like the BioFlash are also immensely useful in protecting VIPs and vulnerable areas.

Another step forward in keeping us safe.