ELECTRA platform: Electrochemical-based Aptasensor for early detection of COVID-19

Hoorfar, Mina | $74,564

British Columbia University of British Columbia 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is highly infectious. Therefore, diagnostic testing for COVID‑19 is critical for tracking the virus, informing case management and suppressing viral transmission. Current tests for COVID‑19 rely on laboratory-based viral gene identification or antibody testing; however, these tests are expensive, time-consuming and require specialized equipment and trained personnel. Hence, there is a worldwide diagnostic gap for COVID‑19 testing that is fast, reliable and affordable. Current testing protocols also overlook a key source of COVID‑19 biomarkers that can rapidly predict infection and complement viral detection by using the body’s inflammatory response through the production of immune proteins called cytokines. The body’s cytokine response occurs within 24 hours of infection. The hyperproduction of these cytokines, known as a cytokine-storm, has been linked to post-recovery health complications such as pneumonia. Therefore, a diagnostic device that simultaneously detects the viral pathogen and verifies host cytokine biomarkers would provide a two-in-one diagnostic solution for the early detection of COVID-19. However, there is no such real-time, label-free, specific and sensitive diagnostic solution that can achieve this on a single platform. The proposed research project and partnership aim to address this technology gap through the development of a two-in-one COVID‑19 viral and immune detection platform – the ELECTRA platform (short for ELECTRochemical-based Aptasensor). The sensor will be configured as a field-effect transistor in which a graphene-based conducting channel (GFET) will be functionalized with a selected group of aptamers with high affinity towards SARS-CoV-2 structural proteins and COVID‑19 elevated cytokines. It will be integrated into a prototype of the ELECTRA real-time detector. The proposed approach is a unique technique for the early detection of COVID‑19 and also has the potential to be applied for the diagnostics of other viral infections.

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