Microfluidic platform for real-time detection of SARS-CoV-2

The platform will be the first portable laboratory device for real-time testing of RNA viruses from untreated human samples. It will be a valuable tool to facilitate the containment of SARS-CoV-2. We will also provide the proof-of-concept for the development of real-time detectors for new potentially pandemic viruses.

  • Background

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    The ongoing international pandemic crisis of COVID-19 has clearly shown the limits of current gold-standard viral diagnostic tests, which are not deployable in airports, train stations or ports, requiring hours for the results, consuming a lot of reagents and placing great demands on medical personnel and clinics. Hence, today’s diagnostic options are ineffective in limiting its spread worldwide. While most of the current RNA-virus detection tests rely on real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction), alternative approaches based on real-time LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) or antigen recognition have been developed. However, their performance in terms of specificity and sensitivity is not fully established.

  • Research aims

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    We aim to develop a microfluidic portable device for real-time detection of SARS-CoV-2, with no sample preparation, minimal reagent consumption and for use by non-specialists and in third-world countries. We will target viral RNA directly with an ultra-sensitive cheap biosensor made of porous silica (SiO2)-supported active sensing surfaces, with the aim of reliably detecting a minimum of 50 copies of viruses in 1 mL samples within a few minutes.

  • Expected results and envisaged products

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    Through disposable microfluidic chips, it will be possible to integrate sample loading, RNA extraction, purification, dispensing and fast detection of SARS-CoV-2 in one device. Transduction and hardware will be designed and miniaturised in order to produce a test bench precursor of an all-in-one portable laboratory device with easy user interface and minimum sample manipulation requirements. Lastly, the device will be assessed for future pre-industrialisation and industrialisation phases with CE certification and potential commercialisation.

  • Specific contribution to tackle the current pandemic

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    Due to their social and economic impact, SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV have been included in the list of the ‘R&D WHO Blueprint’ as “priority global diseases in urgent need of accelerated R&D because of their capacity to cause public health emergencies”. The possible detection of SARS-CoV-2 in a single system will also provide the proof-of-concept for the development of a device able to identify one or more viruses within a panel of pathogens causing similar symptoms. In the long term, the ability to detect multiple pathogens with one device would be beneficial for diagnosing other diseases.

  • Original title

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    Development of a microfluidic platform for real-time detection of SARS-CoV-2 virus based on multifunctional silica membrane biosensors