Rapid Reagent-Free Detection of COVID‑19 in Exhaled Breath Condensate using Ultra-Sensitive Multi-wavelength SERS Nano-gratings

Kherani, Nazir | $50,000

Ontario University of Toronto 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

As the third documented emergence of an animal-to-human coronavirus during the past two decades (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2002, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2012), the current pandemic and near-certainty of future epidemics demands intensified surveillance and proactive screening. Definitive therapy for novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is likely at least a year away. Current standard-of-care diagnostic testing with real-time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR) is resource intensive, costly and inaccurate. An alternative, high sensitivity, rapid and label-free technique for detecting and differentiating molecular structures, including viral strains, at the point-of-testing is urgently needed.

Since 2014, Professor Kherani’s team at the University of Toronto (UofT) has been developing a novel nanophotonic sensing (NPS) platform to detect disease biomarkers with unprecedented sensitivity. This patented technology platform will be repurposed to develop a high sensitivity, rapid near-instantaneous, reagent-free point-of-care testing (PoCT) system for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We (engineering, medicine, and industry) collaboratively propose to demonstrate the viability of rapid reagent-free detection of COVID‑19 in exhaled breath condensate (EBC) and allied samples using ultra-sensitive multi-wavelength SERS nano-gratings technology, and further, translate this technology for widespread use in a range of public and health settings. Deployment of the EBC Analyzer will improve COVID‑19 containment protocols, facilitating rapid positive-case identification in hospitals, nursing homes and the community at large (schools, offices, factories and transportation hubs) and will allow for future disease surveillance.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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