VISTA Associate Member Nima Tabatabaei has received a $50,000 Prototyping Fund to develop a non-invasive roadside test for cannabis use detection. Dr. Tabatabaei is a researcher in York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering and is an expert in the design and development of thermal and optical imaging technologies for early disease diagnosis and screening. He is currently applying his deep technical expertise to detect the principal psychoactive substance of cannabis (tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC) in saliva. Current roadside screening tests are incapable of detecting low concentrations of THC in saliva due to poor detection sensitivity and/or specificity. With the imminent legalization of marijuana in Canada, there is a significant and urgent need for rapid and sensitive roadside screening for impaired driving due to cannabis use.
In a recent publication, Dr. Tabatabaei and coinvestigators demonstrated that thermo-photonic imaging, a technique that detects a specific form of radiation, can be used to identify trace levels of pregnancy hormone in lateral flow immunoassays (LFAs). Due to similarities in the LFA detection of pregnancy hormone and THC, the platform will be re-designed and optimized to develop two low-cost and commercially viable prototypes for law enforcement and public use. With support from Innovation York, the VISTA Prototyping Fund will transform this fundamental research into a global application. The novel sensitive THC screening tool will enter the marketplace at a critical time of need.