A team of US scientists led by an Indian American researcher has developed an experimental diagnostic test for covid-19 that can visually detect the presence of the virus in 10 minutes.
The test developed by scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) does not require the use of any advanced laboratory techniques, such as those commonly used to amplify DNA, for analysis.
It uses a simple assay containing plasmonic gold nanoparticles to detect a color change when the virus is present, according to an UMSOM release.
“Based on our preliminary results, we believe this promising new test may detect RNA material from the virus as early as the first day of infection,” said study leader Dipanjan Pan, PhD, Professor of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine and Pediatrics at the UMSOM.
“Additional studies are needed, however, to confirm whether this is indeed the case,” added Dr. Pan who has a doctorate in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).
Once a nasal swab or saliva sample is obtained from a patient, the RNA is extracted from the sample via a simple process that takes about 10 minutes.
The test uses a highly specific molecule attached to the gold nanoparticles to detect a particular protein.
his protein is part of the genetic sequence that is unique to the novel coronavirus.
When the biosensor binds to the virus’s gene sequence, the gold nanoparticles respond by turning the liquid reagent from purple to blue.
“The accuracy of any COVID-19 test is based on being able to reliably detect any virus. This means it does not give a false negative result if the virus actually is present, nor a false positive result if the virus is not present,” informed Dr Pan.
Many of the diagnostic tests currently on the market cannot detect the virus until several days after infection. For this reason, they have a significant rate of false negative results.
Dr Pan now plans to have a pre-submission meeting with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within the next month to discuss requirements for getting an emergency use authorisation for the test.
“This RNA-based test appears to be very promising in terms of detecting the virus,” said study co-author Matthew Frieman.
Others in Dr. Pan’s team were research scientist Parikshit Moitra, research fellow Maha Alafeef, along with research fellow Ketan Dighe from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The authors published their work in the American Chemical Society’s nanotechnology journal ACS Nano.
Prof. Dipanjan Pan, MS, PhD, is an expert in nanomedicine, molecular imaging and drug delivery. He is presently a tenured Associate Professor in Bioengineering and Materials Science and Engineering and Institute of Sustainability in Energy and Environment in University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He also holds a full faculty position with Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois Cancer Center and recently joined newly started Carle-Illinois College of Medicine.
He Administratively directs the Professional Masters in Engineering Program in Bioengineering within the College of Engineering. He is also an Associate course director for the newly founded engineering inspired Carle-Illinois school of medicine. Prior to coming to Illinois, he was a faculty in Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis. Prof Pan’s lab uniquely merges fundamental chemistry, biology and engineering to bring solution to today’s healthcare problems.
His research is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary centering on the development of novel materials for biomedical applications, immune-nanomedicine and targeted therapies for stem-like cancer cell with phenotypically screened nanomedicine platforms.
Over the years, this research has resulted in more than 100 high impact peer reviewed publications in scientific journals, numerous conference abstracts and has been supported by external funding from NIH, NSF, DoD, American Heart Association and other private/foundational funding sources.
Prof. Pan edited and co-written two books published from Taylor and Francois (Nanomedicine: A Soft Matter Perspective, ISBN-13: 978-1466572829) and Springer (Personalized Medicine with a Nanochemistry Twist: Nanomedicine (Topics in Medicinal Chemistry, ISBN-13: 978-3319335445). He holds multiple patents (8 granted US patents), several ongoing clinical trials and is the founder of three University based early start-ups. He is the CEO/President for a biotechnology start-up Vitruvian Biotech dedicated to develop novel image guided therapies.
He also co-founded InnSight Technologies dedicated to nanotechnology based application for ocular diseases. His other company Kalocyte, which he cofounded with his clinical collaborators, develops artificial oxygen career. His technology has been licensed for commercial development multiple times. He serves as study section review board member for NIH, CDMRP (DoD), NSF and multiple review committee member for American Heart Association.
In 2016 he received Nanomaterials Letter (NML) Researcher award, in 2017 an Young Innovator Award from Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and most recently Dean’s Award for Research Excellence in 2018. He is an elected fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry, a Fellow of American Heart Association and an elected fellow of American College of Cardiology.