A Mosquito Pick-and-Place System for PfSPZ-Based Malaria Vaccine Production

Henry Phalen, Prasad Vagdargi, Mariah L. Schrum, Sumana Chakravarty, Amanda Canezin, Michael Pozin, Suat Coemert, Iulian Iordachita, Stephen L. Hoffman, Gregory S. Chirikjian, Russell H. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The treatment of malaria is a global health challenge that stands to benefit from the widespread introduction of a vaccine for the disease. A method has been developed to create a live organism vaccine using the sporozoites (SPZ) of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum (Pf), which are concentrated in the salivary glands of infected mosquitoes. Current manual dissection methods to obtain these PfSPZ are not optimally efficient for large-scale vaccine production. We propose an improved dissection procedure and a mechanical fixture that increases the rate of mosquito dissection and helps to deskill this stage of the production process. We further demonstrate the automation of a key step in this production process, the picking and placing of mosquitoes from a staging apparatus into a dissection assembly. This unit test of a robotic mosquito pick-and-place system is performed using a custom-designed microgripper attached to a four-degree-of-freedom (4-DOF) robot under the guidance of a computer vision system. Mosquitoes are autonomously grasped and pulled to a pair of notched dissection blades to remove the head of the mosquito, allowing access to the salivary glands. Placement into these blades is adapted based on output from computer vision to accommodate for the unique anatomy and orientation of each grasped mosquito. In this pilot test of the system on 50 mosquitoes, we demonstrate a 100% grasping accuracy and a 90% accuracy in placing the mosquito with its neck within the blade notches such that the head can be removed. This is a promising result for this difficult and nonstandard pick-and-place task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Biomedical engineeering
  • Blades
  • Diseases
  • Robot sensing systems
  • Salivary glands
  • Vaccines
  • biomedical imaging
  • manufacturing automation
  • robot vision systems
  • robots.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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  • Cite this

    Phalen, H., Vagdargi, P., Schrum, M. L., Chakravarty, S., Canezin, A., Pozin, M., Coemert, S., Iordachita, I., Hoffman, S. L., Chirikjian, G. S., & Taylor, R. H. (Accepted/In press). A Mosquito Pick-and-Place System for PfSPZ-Based Malaria Vaccine Production. IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering. https://doi.org/10.1109/TASE.2020.2992131