A low-cost, portable, and decentralized microfluidic device for detecting SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies

Little, Dustin J | $235,800

Ontario Ryerson University 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

Serological surveillance provides population-wide immunity status in a timely manner, which is important evidence in directing public health policy during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Immunoassays are serological tests that can measure antibody levels to an infectious disease, and are being rapidly employed to identify individuals with potential immunity to SARS-CoV-2. Although immunoassays can quantify antibodies in a sample, they do not directly measure neutralizing antibodies (nAbs). Tests currently available for nAbs are expensive, labour intensive, require high biosafety containment, and are can only be preformed in centralized national laboratories. Low-cost, rapid, decentralized testing for SARS-CoV-2 nAbs will expedite serological surveys and help evaluate herd immunity and vaccine effectiveness. The goal of this project is to develop a fast and cost-effective assay to detect nAbs for SARS-CoV-2 and with reduced biosafety requirements for immediate distribution. This assay will then be integrated into a paper-based microfluidic device for portable testing that uses a one-step assay capable of separating out antibodies from whole blood. The development of new diagnostic tools will be critical for serological surveillance during and after the current COVID‑19 pandemic and can help direct Canada’s response to prevent further outbreaks. Low-cost and portable serological testing will also enable low- and middle-income countries to perform high-quality serological surveys and these tools will be of immense value to displaced populations (i.e. refugees). Furthermore, rapid and reliable screening of plasma samples for neutralizing antibodies will provide a valuable resource for the evaluation of current vaccination and antibody-based therapeutic approaches towards SARS-CoV-2.

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