COVID-19 Variant Supplement – Development of a Microwave Enabled Bio-Nano-Microfluidic Device for Point-of-Care Diagnosis of COVID-19

Ren, Carolyn L | $50,000

Ontario University of Waterloo 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

The COVID‑19 crisis has caused over 280k deaths with more than 4 million infections as of May 8, 2020. These numbers are increasing and may peak again with reopening of businesses. This tragedy could be prevented from happening or its impact could be largely minimized if rapid, massive-scale testing can be performed at community level without the need of highly trained professionals and expensive equipment. This is also the highly recommended action among the immediate next steps by World Health Organization (WHO). The proposed project aims to develop such a system for rapid point-of-care (POC) diagnosis of the COVID‑19 virus by leveraging the team’s expertise in engineering, nanotechnology, viral immunology and clinical medicine. The proposed system is a palm-sized instrument that consists of a battery-powered microwave circuitry and a microwave-microfluidic device with its sensor surface modified by functionalized gold nanoparticles (gNPs) that specifically recognize the COVID‑19 virus. The output is a yes/no answer via a light indicator. A test can be done within 30 minutes including the sample preparation, which is completed by simply stirring a nasopharyngeal swab containing a tested person’s sample in a buffer solution. The system allows a test to be completed with a small drop of the sample solution (5 microliter) that is filled in the inlet reservoir and drawn to pass the detection chamber towards the outlet by capillary force. If the sample contains the COVID‑19 virus, the virus will be captured by the functionalized gNPs coated on the sensor surface resulting in the change in the microwave spectrum. The microwave circuitry will analyze the spectrum and output a yes/no answer. It is expected that the availability of the proposed portable system will enable the test of COVID‑19 at the community level such as at a drive-through point or in an ambulance, which will largely expand the testing capacity and thus assist in the control the COVID‑19 pandemic.

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