New technology for large-scale serology

SARS-CoV-2 continues to be a major global pandemic that threatens lives and economies. Accurate, high-throughput, low-cost serological measurements are still needed to understand the extent of infections, immunological responses to infection and effectiveness of vaccines. We are developing new technologies to conduct such measurements.

  • Background

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    Detection and quantification of proteins in blood samples is still being done with ELISAs, a 50-year-old technology. ELISAs require relatively large volume serum samples for accurate measurements. These have to be collected by venepuncture, which must be performed by a trained phlebotomist in a medical setting. New methods are needed that achieve higher throughput, lower reagent and sample consumption, lower cost and higher accuracy. Methods that enable accurate analysis of small-volume blood samples that can be obtained with a simple finger prick would be a major improvement.

  • Research aims

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    We continue to improve the newly developed high-throughput microfluidic technologies for large-scale serological analysis of serum and small-volume capillary blood samples. We aim to develop technologies capable of detecting multiple biomarkers in thousands of blood samples on a device the size of a USB stick. In addition, we will continue our development and validation of convenient, low-cost blood sampling methods, to allow individuals to collect their own blood samples.

  • Expected results and envisaged products

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    We recently developed a high-throughput nano-immunoassay (NIA) capable of detecting SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies in 1024 blood samples. NIA achieved 100% specificity and 98% sensitivity, and is ready to support epidemiological studies. We are developing a multiplexed NIA device for the concurrent detection of other human coronavirus-specific antibodies for which we still lack fundamental understanding of serological response and population-based immunity. To enable large-scale serological measurements, we are continuing to develop and validate finger-prick-based blood sampling methods that are simple, convenient and low-cost. We envision this work to result in a large-scale serology platform to support ongoing SARS-CoV-2 epidemiological studies, improve our understanding of common cold coronaviruses and to develop a generally applicable platform to support serological testing for vaccine development and rollout.

  • Specific contribution to tackle the current pandemic

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    We developed a viable and validated high-throughput NIA platform for the immediate detection of SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibodies in serum samples. This platform can contribute to ongoing and future epidemiological studies. We expect NIA to contribute and support serological and epidemiological studies, vaccine clinical trials and vaccine rollouts. In the future NIA will be able to detect antibodies elicited by other coronaviruses, as well as general inflammation markers.

  • Original title

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    Large-scale serological profiling of SARS-CoV-2 and related human CoVs with high-throughput microfluidic nano-immunoassays