Researchers in Rochester 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 University of Rochester Medical Center researcher Benjamin Miller, the $1.7 million project is funded by the US Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program using CARES Act funds through a contract with AIM Photonics (part of the Manufacturing USA network). The collaboration also involves Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, which develops and manufactures innovative laboratory testing and blood-typing solutions at its Global Center for R&D Excellence in Rochester; Syntec Optics, a maker of polymer optics in Rochester; researchers at the NY CREATES 300mm microelectronics research facility in Albany, New York, and at the University of California at Santa Barbara; and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.
“This is a completely new diagnostic platform,” says Miller, the Dean’s Professor of Dermatology and a professor of biomedical engineering, optics, and biochemistry and biophysics. “We think this is going to be valuable in very broad applications for clinical diagnostics, not just COVID-19.”
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.