Thermo-Photonic Reader for Accurate and Sensitive Interpretation and Quantification of BTNX Inc COVID‑19 Antibody Rapid Tests
The alarming rate of COVID‑19 morbidity and mortality is an indicator that early detection of the disease is not being executed effectively, resulting in infection of vulnerable individuals by undetected cases. While the standard-of-care testing method based on PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is key for detecting active upper airway COVID‑19 infections, it is not useful for detecting the virus from the routine nasal or throat samples ~one-week post-infection. Antibody lateral flow immunoassays (LFAs) are low-cost and end-user friendly rapid tests that could provide complementary and additional information to PCR-based assays by detecting immune response of the body to COVID‑19 disease. While these LFAs can rapidly be administered across the population, their sensitivity and accuracy are limited at the early stages of the disease. Therefore, unavailability of good immunological assays to detect the immune response at early stages with high sensitivity preclude many valuable opportunities for clinical intervention and interruption of disease transmission. In this project we have partnered with BTNX Inc., a Canadian world leader in rapid point-of-care diagnostics, to introduce thermo-photonic interpretation to their existing COVID‑19 LFAs to obtain a new assay that is not only low cost and rapid but also sensitive and quantitative. The innovation to be produced in this project is expected to 1) reliably detect COVID‑19 antibodies within the first week of illness onset; 2) accurately quantify the concentrations of COVID‑19 antibodies (antibody titer). The proposed new assay system will be a rapid and low-cost tool for use by 1) the health network and end-users for rapid and on-site detection of COVID‑19 antibodies even at early stages of disease at large scale; 2) public health authorities for estimating the degree of vulnerability in population; 3) blood donor clinics for identifying convalescent plasma with abundant antibody titers 4) employers across Canada for more objective return-to-work screening. For Canadian researchers, the proposed assay is a valuable quantitative and portable tool for rapid, yet low-cost, quantification of COVID‑19 IgM and IgG antibodies which is key for the development of vaccine and therapeutic strategies.