High-throughput serological assay for detection of cytokines/chemokines in COVID‑19 patients

Winnik, Mitchell | $50,000

Ontario University of Toronto 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

COVID‑19 is a novel viral illness, with a wide spectrum of clinical illness from asymptomatic to critical illness and death. The immune response to the virus may play an important role in the ultimate clinical outcome. It has been hypothesized that an inflammatory overactivity or “cytokine storm” may drive clinical deterioration in severe COVID-19. Patients with high levels of inflammation (or cytokines) have been found to have more severe disease and are more likely to die. It is therefore essential for us to unravel the inflammatory response to COVID-19, both to identify patients at-risk for deterioration and to define potential thresholds for initiation of therapies that target the immune response.

In order to do this, we need technologies to rapidly, efficiently, accurately measure cytokine levels. We aim to develop a technology, rooted in novel materials chemistry, to measure cytokine levels and as well antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 antibody. This technology is based on the preparation of micrometre-sized plastic beads encoded with different metal atoms in which each encoded bead surface is coated with a capture biomolecule (antibody or antigen) to bind disease biomarkers from biological fluids collected from COVD-19 patients. In this way we can detecting 8 different cytokines in each patient sample. The technology can be expanded to detect 32 cytokines and antibodies in each sample. It also allows one to use secondary sample barcoding in order to analyze up to 20 patient samples in single test, where results can be acquired within a 1-hour timeframe. Upon development and deployment of this technology, we will use clinical samples from patients with COVID‑19 to characterize the immune response and to conduct “serosurveillance” to identify and characterize patients who have been previously infected with COVID-19.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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