Today@Sam Article

Professor Awarded U.S. Air Force/AFWERX Small Business Innovation Research Contract

July 2, 2021
SHSU Media Contact: Emily Binetti

By Becca Broaddus

Jorn-YuProfessor Jorn Yu in the Department of Forensic Science at Sam Houston State University, in partnership with Forward Edge-AI, was awarded an Air Force/AFWERX Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract for technology related to pathogen detection and outbreak analytics. Yu’s research focuses on forensic chemistry and he will lend his expertise to this technology that jumpstarts previous work done within the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“ForwardEdge AI is a small business in Texas and has innovative Edge AI algorithms to build intelligent chemical sensors. Our forensic trace chemical analysis expertise supports ForwardEdge AI's innovation in creating a commercial product that can detect chemical and biological threats in the field,” Yu explained.

The technology leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable rapid, standoff detection and differentiation of viral and bacterial pathogens including SARS-CoV-2 the virus that causes COVID-19. The electronic detection method would eliminate the need for expensive consumables, including swabs, reagents, and collection bags that can range from $80 to $450 per analysis; and enable unlimited detection at a cost of less than one cent per scan. The electronic device also will be networked and interoperable with other devices to support federated learning of local training data to continuously update chemical and biological threat libraries and enable rapid response to prevent future outbreaks.

“Our research team is excited about the opportunity that our forensic science academic research work can one day be transformed into real-world solutions,” Yu said.

The SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in federal research and research and development with the potential for commercialization. Yu worked with the SHSU Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) to help support the research group and develop the proposal.

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