NIST-EPA Inter-Agency Agreement on Fecal Waste Contaminants in Water
Scott Jackson, leader of MML’s Complex Microbial Systems Group is working with scientists from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Water Supply and Water Resources Division to develop molecular genetic reference materials for validating analytical methods developed at the EPA for the detection of fecal waste contaminates in our waterways. Fecal microbes are the most common biological contaminants in U.S. waters and pose serious public and ecological health risks. A nationwide network of regional and state laboratories uses the EPA-developed methods to monitor local recreational waters for safety and for evaluating best management practices. The NIST-developed reference material will be used to assess the analytical sensitivity and specificity of the EPA-developed methods as well as ensuring interlaboratory competency through annual performance testing.
CDC Human Microbiome Disruption Meeting
On September 18, 2017 MML Group Leader Scott Jackson visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, to develop a set of standard practices for assessing, during drug development, the degree and significance of human microbiome disruption or restoration resulting from exposure to medications such as antibiotics, microbiome protectants, or microbiome restoratives. Several pre-calls with invited participants were hosted in advance to develop a starting draft of standard practices and define current gaps in approaches to assess drug-related microbiome disruption and gaps in evidence linking potential microbiome indices to outcomes. During this meeting, Jackson gave a presentation on the ongoing activities at NIST surrounding standards for microbiome measurements as well current antibiotic resistance research. The meeting was hosted by the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion.
NIST Joins Joint Agency Microbiome Group
Last year the FDA and NIH partnered to form the Joint Agency Microbiome Working Group. The group, composed of scientists interested in microbiome research, recently expanded their strategic document to officially include NIST as a member. MML’s Scott Jackson is representing NIST in the group. The goals of the group are to:
- Promote trans-agency collaborations in advancing microbiome related science
- Keep the three agencies appraised of current microbiome-related research
- Keep the three agencies appraised of scientific gaps related to regulatory questions/ needs
- Keep the three agencies updated on past and upcoming microbiome related meetings
- Provide updated general information about the regulation of microbiome-related resources such as probiotics and fecal microbial transplants
- Coordinate minisymposium or retreat to share intramural research
Industry Engagement on Neutron and X-Ray Measurements
During the week of September 18, 2017, MML staff visited, in succession, the Toyota Research Institute of North America (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Dow Chemical (Midland, Michigan), and the former Dow Corning (Midland, Michigan). Both Toyota and Dow Chemical are members of the NIST public-private consortium nSoft, and Dow Chemical has had a 20+ year cooperative research and development agreement with the NIST Synchrotron Science Group located at Brookhaven National Laboratory. After recent visits to the Gaithersburg campus, there was a request for a reverse site visit to discuss emerging capabilities in neutron and X-ray measurements. In addition to interests in characterization of membranes for water purification and energy storage, all three companies expressed great interest in applying new NIST capabilities for X-ray spectroscopic microscopy to the characterization of catalysts.
NIST Agreement on Non-Animal Assay for Assessing Skin Sensitivity to Chemicals
Scientists from MML’s Biosystems and Biomaterials Division will work with scientists from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) through an interagency agreement to improve the measurement assurance of a non-animal alternative assay focused on assessing the potential skin sensitization risk for chemicals. This assay is currently being evaluated with a three-laboratory comparison through the Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM). The work being conducted at NIST will focus on how to use measurement science approaches (cause and effect analysis, robustness testing, and quantifying different sources of variability) to enhance the quality of the assay. This work has already uncovered unexpected sources of variability that were not highlighted in the original protocol (e.g., photodegradation of assay reagents, variable quality of key reagents among suppliers, impact of different cuvettes) and enabled the design of potential in-line process control measurements to ensure confidence in the assay result. Furthermore, the NIST/CPSC team will evaluate the feasibility of using this assay to test more complex compounds such as nanomaterials. This work and the interlaboratory comparison results will be used to statistically determine specification ranges to ensure assay performance.
MML’s Applied Chemicals and Materials Division Begins SBIR Phase II with Innoveering
On September 5, 2017, Elisabeth Mansfield, leader of MML’s Thermophysical Properties of Fluids Group kicked off a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project with Innoveering LLC to design a high-temperature, low-uncertainty pressure sensor. Innoveering is a small business based in New York that has a history of designing pressure sensors for oil and gas applications. They are applying their knowledge developed for previous applications to the development of a new sensor for NIST. The Thermophysical Properties of Fluids group has an interest in a new pressure sensor to overcome some of the challenges with current pressure sensor size and calibrations. The new pressure sensor is much smaller (1 in x 1 in), has a pressure range up to 7MPa, and is based on MEMS technology. It is expected that this sensor will allow NIST to develop smaller instrumentation for thermophysical property measurements and improve the uncertainties in current instrumentation. The finalized sensor is expected to be delivered at NIST by August 31, 2019. The SBIR program encourages domestic small businesses to engage in federal research/research and development that has the potential for commercialization.
MML Leads Microscopy & Microanalysis Symposium on Advances in Scanning Electron Microscopy
Bob Keller, leader of MML’s Nanoscale Reliability Group, teamed with Professors Raynald Gauvin (McGill University) and Shirin Kaboli (University of Nevada-Las Vegas) to organize and run a symposium entitled Advances in Scanning Electron Microscopy: Transmission Modes and Channeling Effects at the Microscopy & Microanalysis Meeting, held in St. Louis, August 7-9, 2017. The Symposium drew many of the world’s experts in both transmission and electron channeling methods, which share numerous common aspects of electron scattering and detection physics. This was the first symposium at the Microscopy & Microanalysis conference that included transmission scanning electron microscope (SEM) methods as a primary focus. The historically uncommon transmission approach has seen rapid research and commercial growth during the past five years, since the NIST development of transmission-EBSD (aka transmission Kikuchi diffraction) was first reported. Transmission-centric topics included imaging methods, electron diffraction methods, and electron energy loss spectrometry in the SEM, for characterization of a wide variety of substances, including metals, semiconductors, ceramics, rocks and minerals, and biological material. Channeling-centric topics included electron channeling contrast imaging and electron channeling pattern methods, used primarily for studies of deformation in metals and semiconductors. The program can be found at http://www. microscopy.org/MandM/2017/program/ Scientific_Program.pdf.