From the bench to onsite: turning discovery into technological solutions


Caparica, Portugal
Instituto Universitário Egas Moniz
Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Univ. NOVA de Lisboa

GB2 awarded with “Research 4 COVID-19” research project funding

01/07/2020 12:16

QuiCoviDe - Quick Covid Detection

Fast and extensive testing SARS-Cov-2 is fundamental to understand and prevent the COVID-19 pandemics Being at the first line of defense, it allows prescribing early therapies, preventing silent infections by isolating asymptomatic viral carriers and avoiding needless quarantines. Having quick, accurate, and deployable SARS-CoV-2 tests is thus pivotal for the disease’s control. However, currently available tests have many limitations and none of them enables the massive, rapid diagnosis of COVID-19. The golden standard diagnostic tests are based on the amplification of viral RNA extracted from nasopharyngeal swabs. These molecular tests are time-consuming, require trained technicians, and specialized laboratory equipment. Immunological assays are another category of tests that detect the presence of antibodies produced in blood/serum following exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (early IgM and late IgG). Despite being much faster and simpler, they often lead to false negatives and are only effective after 8-10 days of infection. For these reasons, the WHO is encouraging the development of a new class of rapid diagnostic tests, which detect viral surface proteins - the antigens - in respiratory samples (e.g. sputum, throat swab), instead of RNA or antibodies against the new corona virus.

This project aims at developing a simple, quick and cost-effective test for SARS-CoV-2, the QuiCoviDe, which falls within this new category of antigen detecting tests. In particular, monoclonal antibodies targeting viral surface proteins will be firstly conjugated with nanostructured materials and than coupled to transparent sensor chips. When in contact with samples from infected people, SARS-CoV-2 antigenes will be captured by the immobilized antibodies (Fig. 1), thereby inducing small changes in the surface environment (refractive index) that are easily detected by a localized surface plasmon resonance-based optic fiber reader (Fig. 2). This ultrasensitive immunosensor will be able to spot COVID-19 at an early stage, with no need of cumbersome viral RNA preparation.

Noteworthy, the QuiCoviDe reader is deployable and can be used by non-trained personnel, enabling the disease’s control at the point-of-care (e.g. hospitals, clinics) and outbreak control spots, such as schools, airports, and nursing homes.

The QuiCoviDe project benefits from a highly interdisciplinary team having complementary expertise in Biosensors, Optoelectronics, Nanotechnology, Virology, Molecular diagnostics and Infecciology.

-Biosensors (M.G. Almeida, UCIBIO and CESEM)

-Optoelectronics (A. Fantoni, ISEL and UNINOVA)

-Nanotechnology (E. Alegria, ISEL and CQE)

-Virology (H. Barroso, CESEM)

-Molecular diagnostics (A. Fernandes, UCIBIO and FCT-NOVA)

-Infecciology (H. Pinheiro, HCC; T. Nunes, HGO)