Lab-on-smartphone with optical interface for rapid multiplex in-field testing of COVID-19
Since the beginning of COVID‑19 pandemic, over 5,800,000 confirmed cases and 360,000 deaths have been identified. The shortage of approved diagnostics tests in hospitals particularly in rural areas, have limited the access of individuals to diagnostic tests. We gather a team of experts at McGill University and Nikon Canada Inc. to develop a portable and cost-effective diagnostics platform for detection of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) with capability of rapid implementation in remote-locations and rural areas. Our team has already begun development of a prototype for testing of SARS-CoV-2 RNA via a novel colorimetric assay in a quantifiable multiplex fashion. Here, we implement our novel colorimetric fluidic device for portable multiplex testing of SARS-CoV-2 in minutes and interpretation of the test results with the help of a smartphone (data acquisition system). Our aim is to provide easy access to the results of diagnostics in remote locations and avoid overloading hospitals and lab facilities. With the support from Nikon (in-kind contribution), we will develop a portable and miniaturized imaging box composed of our novel colorimetric fluidic device and optical components capable of holding to smartphones, independent from their model (Aim1). We will then implement this portable and multiplex approach for testing SARS-CoV-2 from swab samples in a non-clinical simulated environment (Aim2). Mahshid Lab in the Department of Bioengineering, has already received all necessary protocols and McGill EHS approval “Use Biohazardous Materials” to work with SARS-CoV-2. Finally, we will develop a smartphone application (Android studio) for easing data interpretation and analysing the colorimetric data (color images) into reading signals (Aim3). Based on the availability of smartphones, being able to use these smart devices will put less pressure on the healthcare system and reduce the need for bulky computers especially for in-field testing or in rural areas. The potential to increase COVID‑19 testing rate at a low cost will benefit the Canadian health system during the current pandemic and help prevent similar pandemics in the future.