Research on Emerging Technologies

Research Scientist

Nathalie Corneau,
Bureau of Microbial Hazards, Health Canada

Research Technical Support: Christian Luebbert

Mandate: Design and development of novel technologies for the detection, characterization and surveillance of foodborne pathogens in the farm to fork continuum.


Microbiologists traditionally have used phenotypic characterization for typing microorganisms that have been isolated from a variety of matrices. The methods can be laborious, time consuming, are technically demanding, and often do not yield the level of discrimination required for adequate downstream analyses. Furthermore, the genetic components responsible for the phenotypic traits were unknown. With advances in molecular biology, newer and more sophisticated typing methods based on the genetic makeup of the cell are becoming commonplace.

There are many ways for using a molecular detection methods and for performing typing or characterization, whether phenotypic or genotypic-based. Two major ones that address food safety are:

  1. how to rapidly test for the presence of foodborne pathogens along the farm to fork continuum, including at the retail end, and
  2. source attribution to identify where a particular pathogen entered a food processing environment, how it becomes disseminated, and where it establishes niches. These two issues are tied to the epidemiological investigations that focus on matching clinical, environmental, and food isolates implicated in sporadic or outbreak events.

The research being done in our laboratory is aimed at designing and testing new tools capable of monitoring in real-time the presence of human bacterial, viral or parasitic pathogens in foods. Rapid, diagnostic methodologies that help address early detection ultimately aid in reducing the illnesses due to contaminated foods, while enhancing surveillance activities.

The Reference Centre for Rapid Diagnostics, Regulatory Sciences and Food Safety

A joint Health Canada (HC) - Industrial Materials Institute-National Research Council (IMI-NRC) laboratory for rapid diagnostics of microbial hazards in food was created in the summer of 2010 with the objective to design and implement emerging lab-on-chip technologies for rapid pathogen detection in the food chain. This Reference Centre aims to connect at an operational level important and complementary expertise in microbiology (Bureau of Microbial Hazards, HC) and fabrication and integration technologies (IMI-NRC). IMI-NRC brings infrastructure and expertise in the field of polymer-based micro-nano fabrication of microfluidic integrated systems for sample preparation and genetic identification.

The main objective of the Centre will focus on the development of portable, lab-on-a-chip systems capable of rapid sample preparation, detection, isolation, identification, and characterization of foodborne pathogens.

Contact information of the co-directors:

Nathalie Corneau,
Health Canada
Molecular Biologist
Food Directorate
Bureau of Microbial Hazards
Tel. (613) 954-7728 / Fax (613) 941-0280
Sir F. G. Banting Research Centre
251Sir F. G. Banting Driveway, Tunney's Pasture
Postal Locator # 2204D, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1A 0K9

Dr. Teodor Veres
Functional Nanomaterials Group Leader
Advanced Materials Design
Tel. (450) 641-5232 Fax (450) 641-5105
Industrial Materials Institute
National Research Council Canada
75, de Mortagne, Boucherville, Québec, Canada, J4B 6Y4

Research Interests:

The Reference Centre for Rapid Diagnostics, Regulatory Sciences and Food Safety develops projects to:

  • Enhance surveillance by focussing on early detection of foodborne pathogens (bacterial, viral and parasitic);
  • Develop technologies that combine real-time detection and molecular characterization of important foodborne pathogens in the farm to fork continuum;
  • Develop and implement a strategy to address emerging threats to food safety;
  • Build upon and enhance strategic networks in order to advance inter-governmental cooperation and scientific collaboration.

Lab-on-a-chip platforms will be valuable for microbial source tracking (e.g., farm-to-fork); characterization and detection of antimicrobial resistance phenomena related to industrial cleaning processes; and for ascertaining the survival, growth and adaptation/fitness of pathogens in foods. These systems will also produce data that will fill important information gaps that are currently present and will help strengthen policies and guidelines.

Liquid Fluorescent in situ Hybridization (FISH) of Listeria monocytogenes compatible with microfluidic platform for rapid detection.

Polymer-based microfluidic structure for bacteria capture and culture

Multiplex microfluidic system for bacteria capture and culture

List of Publications:

M. Geissler, E. Roy, G.A. Diaz-Quijada, and T. Veres. 2009. A Microfluidic Approach to the Patterning of Miniaturized DNA Arrays on Plastic Substrates. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 1 (7), pp 1387-1395.

Pagotto, F., Corneau, N., Mattison, K., and Bidawid, S. 2008. Development of a DNA microarray for the simultaneous detection and genotyping of noroviruses. J. Food Prot. 71:1434-1441.

M. Herrmann, T. Veres and M. Tabrizian. 2008. Rapid quantification of low picomolar concentrations of TNF-alpha in serum using the Dual Network microfluidic ELISA platform. Anal. Chem. 80 : 5160-5167.

G. A. Diaz-Quijada, R. Peytavi, A. Nantel, E. Roy, M. G. Bergeron, M. M. Dumoulin and T. Veres. 2007. Towards the Plastic Biochip for High Throughput Screening Devices. Lab on Chip 7(7):856-62.

F. Pagotto, N. Corneau, and J.M. Farber. 2006. Listeria monocytogenes. In H. Riemann and D.O. Cliver (eds.), Foodborne infections and intoxications, third edition. Academic Press, pp. 313-340.

N. S. Cameron, H. Roberge, T. Veres, S. C. Jakeway, and H. J. Crabtree. 2006. High fidelity, high yield production of microfluidic devices by hot embossing lithography: rheology and stiction. Lab Chip 6 : 936-941.

F. Pagotto, N. Corneau, C. Scherf, P. Leopold, C. Clark, and J.M. Farber. 2005. Molecular typing and differentiation of foodborne bacterial pathogens. In P.M. Fratamico, A.K. Bhunia, and S.L. Smith (ed.), Foodborne Pathogens: Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Caister Academic Press, pp. 51-75.

Corneau, N., E. Emond and G. LaPointe. 2004. Molecular characterization of three plasmids from Bifidobacterium longum. Plasmid 51 (2):87-100.

Pagotto, F., Corneau, N., Blais, B. and Phillippe L.M. 2002. MFLP-78: Identification of presumptive positive Listeria monocytogenes from foods and environmental samples by the polymerase chain reaction. Official methods for the microbiological analysis of foods. Compendium of Analytical Methods, volume 3 Health Protection Branch.

Corneau, N., C. Dubé, G. LaPointe, and E. Emond. 2001. A coelectroporation method for the isolation of cryptic plasmids from Lactococcus lactis. Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 33 : 7-11.

Corneau, N., Pagotto, F., and J.M. Farber. 2001. DNA Microarrays: a high-throughput technology. Canadian Meat Science Association, 3-7.

Lavallée, R.*, N. Corneau, G. LaPointe, and E. Emond. 1999. Selection and characterization of plasmids for use in a food-grade vector system for Lactococcus lactis. J. Dairy Sci. 82 (Suppl.1): 11.

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