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Optical Diagnostic Platform Detects Multiple Viruses

time:2021-01-12 source:browse:165

Optical Diagnostic Platform Detects Multiple Viruses

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ROCHESTER, N.Y., Jan. 8, 2021 — University of Rochester researchers are developing an optical chip on a disposable card that is capable of detecting exposure to multiple viruses, within a minute and from a single drop of blood.

The $1.7 million project is led by Benjamin Miller, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program with CARES Act funds through a contract with AIM Photonics. The work also involves Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, which develops and manufactures laboratory testing and blood-typing technology; Syntec Optics, a maker of polymer optics; researchers at the NY CREATES 300-mm microelectronics research facility; and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
Rochester researchers are developing an optical chip on a disposable card that can detect exposure to multiple viruses—including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19—within a minute and from a single drop of blood. Courtesy of the Miller Lab.
Rochester researchers are developing an optical chip on a disposable card that can detect exposure to multiple viruses — including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — within a minute and from a single drop of blood. Courtesy of the Miller Lab.

“This is a completely new diagnostic platform,” said Miller, 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.”

The core of 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 the sample is positive for any of the viruses, antibodies to those viruses in the blood sample will be drawn to the proteins and detectable.

The technology may allow clinicians to better understand potential relationships between COVID-19 infection and immunity to other respiratory viruses, including circulating coronaviruses that cause the common cold.

Another promising aspect of the work is the pathway it creates for the technology to eventually become usable in doctor’s offices or pharmacies, Miller said. “Our goal is to have a validated benchtop prototype by this winter, early spring at the latest.” 


The researchers plan to use blood drawn from 100 consenting convalescent COVID-19 patients to test the device’s effectiveness. Once the prototype has been completed and validated, the researchers will be eligible to apply for further funding to move the technology closer to commercial availability.

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