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SENTINEL Bioactive Paper Network

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During the Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network’s first five-year term of research and development (2005-10), the network became the acknowledged global leader in the innovation of bioactive paper technology. Sentinel’s unique scientific ability to develop simple, rapid and inexpensive tests is being applied to detect, repel and deactivate food, water and airborne pathogens to improve human health and safety in Canada and around the world.

Sentinel was the first to:

  • develop a new DNA-aptamer reporting system that uses DNA-modified gold nanoparticles that change color instantly upon contact with a specific target of interest. The material is printed on paper and a drop of solution containing the intended target will produce an intense red color in minutes. The analysis is quick and cost-effective (a few cents per test strip);
  • demonstrate it is possible to directly detect the presence of E. coli using a paper-based sensor platform. Our researchers achieved this by genetically modifying bacteriophage;
  • successfully immobilize listeriophage on a paper-based material and demonstrate the efficacy of this paper in reducing Listeria levels on ready-to-eat turkey; and
  • demonstrate a new paper-based, solid-phase biosensor that utilizes piezoelectric inkjet printing of biocompatible, sol−gel-based inks to create colorimetric sensor strips. Sentinel demonstrated the concept by the detection of the pesticide acetyl cholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors, on paper as a dipstick or a lateral flow-based biosensor. Rapid detection (less than five minutes) can be achieved by eye or using a digital camera and image analysis software. The scientific publication about the inkjet-printed, paper-supported pesticide sensor stimulated more than 40 business development opportunities. It is expected the sensors can be commercialized within Phase 2 of Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network.


In Canada, public health experts estimate that there are 11 to 13 million cases of foodborne illness every year. In the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,000 citizens die from tainted food, with more than 48 million people becoming ill. In addition, the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, virulent epidemics, unsafe drinking water and incidents of bioterrorism all underscore our vulnerability to biological hazards. When problems such as these strike, time is of the essence. Currently, there are no rapid, inexpensive techniques to warn that something could be wrong. The challenge for the Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network is to develop bioactive paper products that can detect, repel or deactivate pathogens found in food, water and air. These applications exploit the qualities of paper, which include low-cost, disposability, sterility and well-defined porosity. They also provide attractive new business opportunities for Canada's pulp and paper manufacturers searching for innovative new products.

Network Structure

Canada leads the world in the development of bioactive paper. The Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network brings together 28 academic researchers from 11 universities, in partnership with NSERC and its Forest Sector R&D Initiative, National Research Council Canada, Ontario Centres of Excellence and five industrial partners.

The network research team includes eight Canada Research Chair recipients, three NSERC Industrial Research Chairholders and a holder of an endowed Chair. Currently, the network involves more than 50 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and undergraduates.

For 2010-15 NSERC awarded $7.5 million to the Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network with partners contributing $2 million cash and an additional $2 million of in–kind contributions.

Research Objectives

The network's research results, along with industry's interest in potential products to test food and water safety, has led to the development of several new platforms of research related to sensor development and detection. Receiving additional funding from NSERC between 2010 and 2015 allows the network's novel innovations to proceed to commercialization opportunities.

For the 2010-15 term, the Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network is supporting five technology-based research platforms to support commercialization processes.


The network's partners will apply the research results to develop proprietary bioactive paper-based products, such as diagnostic food packaging, protective masks and clothing for health-care workers, and air and water filters. In addition, bioactive paper will have a significant impact in developing countries, where low-cost, simple tests to detect disease are needed.

Canadian scientists and engineers trained in the Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network will be uniquely qualified, with expertise in materials engineering and biological sciences, to support the transformation of the Canadian pulp and paper industry as a supplier of high-value products with advanced functionality.


Robert Pelton, Scientific Director
Tel.: 905-525-9140, ext. 27045

George Rosenberg, Managing Director
Tel.: 604-222-3216

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Contact us at 1-877-767-1767