SEED: A Technology With Widespread Applications

Our ideal system has the capacity to indicate the presence of any environmental nucleic acid sequence that we program it to detect. While we have not yet gotten to that stage, and were only able to demonstrate a proof-of-concept through the detection of a single DNA target sequence, we are excited at the various applications of the technology in its ideal, fully-developed form. There are four main categories that we can see the biotechnology being applied in: health care, food and water safety, agriculture, and genetic testing. Beyond that, the technology has potential to create brand new areas of application: preventative zoonotics, biosafety weathermap, and probiotic diagnostics.

Health Care

We have already thoroughly established SEED's potential as a viral diagnostics, specifically for COVID-19. Some other viruses that a nucleic acid diagnostic could test for are below - DNA viral tests are more likely to be available before RNA viral tests. Additionally though, Nucleic Acid diagnostics can test more diseases than just viruses by detection microRNAs (miRNAs) in the blood. These are RNA sequences that are expressed and/or up-regulated when a patient has a certain disease. Being able to detect them could help diagnose patients faster and give them better care.

miRNA Biomarkers

  • Endometriosis
  • Alzheimer's
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriasis

RNA Viruses

  • Coronaviruses (SARS, MERS, COVID-19)
  • HIV
  • Polio
  • Rabies
  • Ebola
  • Hepatitis
  • Measles
Health Care

DNA Viruses

  • Adenoviruses (common cold)
  • Human parvovirus (HPV)
  • Herpes
  • Small pox


Viruses do not just affect humans, there also can infect plants. One of our team members has a parent that is a farmer, and when talking to them about potential applications for SEED in agriculture, they were surprised to hear just how common and various plant viruses are. Something special about agricultural applications is that our test has the potential to be embedded into agricultural fields and passively test for viruses. This is because B. subtilis is found naturally in soil and on plants. So, theoretically, the cells can live on plants and passively detect, glowing in the presence of specific viruses, helping farmers to protect thier crops.

Food and Water Safety

We can also use the invention to help efforts in food and water safety, testing water and food samples for pathogens by exposing them to our engineered cells. This could be as simple as introducing a food or water sample to the culture and waiting for a fluorescent output, or integrating the cells themselves into the assembly line production. Implementing our device this way would allow for passive monitoring of the biosphere. Not even just viral infections, but bacterial infections could be tested in water and food supplies. Certain kinds of bacteria secrete nucleic acids into the environment around them as they grow, making them detectable to SEED.

Water Safety

This would enable people to know when pathogens are present in the food and water that they consume, as well as the presence of pathogens that could be harmful to the rest of their ecosphere. Using biology to measure biology finds another strong use case in ensuring environmental health.

Genetic Testing

Genetic Testing

Another application is using the system to test for specific genes in humans, in a consumer genetic testing market. Many of us are familiar with DNA test kits that involve spitting into a tube and mailing it off to a lab facility to await the arrival of online results. SEED would enable consumers to extract their own DNA with readily available household supplies, and test it themselves. Glowing bacteria will indicate if you possess the gene you’re looking for! This added layer of interactivity along with the fast turnaround of results creates an enticing product for consumers interested in better understanding their individual genomes, whether for health reasons or for fun.

SEED also has the potential to be useful in forensics testing. DNA tests play an integral role in providing evidence towards implicating criminals and exonerating suspects. If there are multiple genetic samples to be tested against DNA found at a crime scene, having one cell that will fluoresce in response to that target will tell you clearly which input matches the target - cheaper and easier than standard methods. Once again eliminating the need for an external lab test, SEED could provide results to investigators at the scene, saving time and easing a burden for the criminal justice system.

Preventative Zoonotics

We could embed SEED into environments such as soil, bat caves, or agricultural settings to look for key sequences of RNA or DNA that indicate an animal pathogen is mutating towards being able to infect humans. Colormetric changes, pH changes, or any other measurable alterations to an environment through the output of SEED cells could create a warning system for emerging pathogens. This would give us a unique opportunity to identify and eliminate a disease in animals before it even gets the opportunity to infect humans.


Biosafety Weathermap

We could integrate our SEED cells into the previously mentioned microfluidic devices with radiofrequency capability. By placing these devices at strategic locations in buildings, restaurants, public infastructure, we could generate a real-time digital "weather map" to visualize biological threats moving across in the globe. Imagine if we had this for COVID-19, or when preventing a future bio-terrorist attack. By visualizing the world around us with SEED, we open up new doors in the field of local, national, and global BioSecurity

Probiotic Diagnostics

Bacillus subtilis is a non-pathogenic microbe that lives within the human microbiome, usually found in the intestinal epithelium. It has been shown to promote healthy, probiotic activity when administered intranasally into pigs, and is being investigated for human probiotic use. In the future, maybe just a few years down the line, we should be integrating SEED cells into the human microbiome, whether intranasally, epidermally, or internally. Using SEED as a "wearable" would enable constant monitoring of specific nucleic acids. Upon detection of a target sequence, the user's intranasal mucus will change color to indicate a positive detection. This would be invaluable in the COVID-19 pandemic.

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