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Optical Chip on Disposable Card Could Detect COVID-19 Antibodies from Single Drop of Blood in One Minute

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Jan 2021
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Image: An earlier iteration of the sensors being used as part of the new optical chips developed in the Miller Lab (Photo courtesy of the Miller Lab)
Image: An earlier iteration of the sensors being used as part of the new optical chips developed in the Miller Lab (Photo courtesy of the Miller Lab)
Researchers are developing an optical chip on a disposable card that can detect exposure to multiple viruses within a minute - including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 - from a single drop of blood.

Led by the University of Rochester Medical Center (Rochester, NY, USA), the USD 1.7 million project is funded by the US Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program through a contract with AIM Photonics (Albany, NY, USA). The collaboration also involves Ortho Clinical Diagnostics (Raritan, NJ, USA) which develops and manufactures innovative laboratory testing and blood-typing solutions.

The key to the technology is an optical chip, no larger than a grain of rice. Proteins associated with eight different viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, are contained in separate sensor areas of the chip. If someone has been exposed to any of the viruses, antibodies to those viruses in the blood sample will be drawn to the proteins and detected. The card will enable clinicians not only to detect and study COVID-19, but also to better understand potential relationships between COVID-19 infection and previous infections and immunity to other respiratory viruses, including circulating coronaviruses that cause the common cold. The researchers will now use blood drawn from 100 consenting convalescent COVID-19 patients to test the device’s effectiveness and and validate the initial prototype.

“This is a completely new diagnostic platform. We think this is going to be valuable in very broad applications for clinical diagnostics, not just COVID-19,” said University of Rochester Medical Center researcher Benjamin Miller who is leading the project. “But one of the attractive aspects of this is there’s a pathway for this technology to eventually be used in a doctor’s office or a pharmacy. Our goal is to have a validated benchtop prototype by this winter, early spring at the latest.”

“It is exciting to see the sensors work developed by AIM Photonics, over the past five years, now play a part in more effective testing for COVID-19 and future diseases,” added Michael Cumbo, CEO of AIM Photonics. “The industry, academic, and government partnership is a fundamental piece of this institute. Together, we foster successful technology developments such as this optical chip, which in turn enables a very innovative diagnostic platform.”

Related Links:
University of Rochester Medical Center
AIM Photonics
Ortho Clinical Diagnostics

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