A Rapid and Highly Sensitive On-site Detection Platform for COVID‑19 Testing

Cao, Xudong | $50,000

Ontario University of Ottawa 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic has caused more than 2.4 million infections and more 166,000 deaths worldwide to date, and it is not showing any signs of slowing down. While public health workers are working around the clock to identify new cases of COVID‑19 infections, a clear bottleneck – lack of fast tasting capacity to keep up with the rate of infection – has been severely exposed. This problem is exacerbated by emerging evidence suggesting that approximately 50% to 85% of COVID‑19 patients, who are either asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, are still able to transmit the virus and infect others undetected, making it even more difficult to keep track of the disease in order to contain it, an unfortunate situation that can only be described as “flying blind”.

The goal of the current Alliance COVID‑19 application is to develop a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) based ultra-sensitive detection platform that will detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus from swabbed samples without the need for any sample preparations. We expect that the test results can be available within 10 minutes. For this proposed detection platform to be successful, innovative designs to enhance detection sensitivity must be carefully considered. To this end, we propose to surface modify the SPR detection chip so that 1) the detection surface is rendered nonfouling to reduce nonspecific bindings to minimize the background noise, and 2) the efficacy of the detection surface to capture target SARS-CoV-2 viruses is enhanced in order to increase detection signals. We expect that the test results can be available within 10 minutes with a limit of detection at about 10^4 viruses/mL, similar to that of the PCR. The estimated cost of the test is about $20/test.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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