A rapid at-home test for SARS-CoV-2

Li, Yingfu | $1,314,083

Ontario McMaster University 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

As governments move toward re-opening Canada, it is critical that we have in place fast and simple tests for COVID-19. Canada needs cost-effective diagnostic technologies that allow for accurate and real-time mass testing in a variety of places, such as homes, airports, doctors’ offices, borders, long-term care facilities and remote locations without access to centralized testing facilities. The goal of this proposal is to adapt and optimize existing technologies, originally developed by a team of researchers at McMaster University for bacterial detection, into a rapid point-of-need test for COVID-19. The test targets two classes of unique biomarkers – RNA and proteins – from COVID‑19 to increase the test accuracy. It targets the RNA using molecular scissors made of DNA (called DNAzymes) and the proteins using molecular hands made of DNA (called DNA aptamers). These molecular scissors and hands will convert the presence of viral RNA and proteins to a DNA output, which is then massively amplified via an equipment-free room-temperature amplification method, known as “rolling circular amplification” (RCA), making the test highly sensitive. The device for the test is very simple and cheap, resembling a home pregnancy test. The test uses saliva as the sample source and fast chemical and biochemical reactions so that the test can be performed easily within 30 minutes by untrained users at home or any other points of need. Test reagents are contained in tablets for user convenience and high stability. Our team has already obtained proof-of-concept for most of the components of the test and will aim to optimize and integrate these components into a test kit, and validate the test by working with clinicians at the frontline of COVID‑19 diagnostics and treatment. We are also working with Canadian industrial partners who can help with manufacturing and distribution of tests and recording of test results.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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