PI: Rahul Panat

University: Carnegie Mellon University

The current COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected public health and strained the healthcare infrastructure. Even as the vaccines are rolled out, requirements for a COVID-19 tests are expected to be strong to assess the longevity of vaccines, in addition to screening the infections. The current COVID-19 tests either enable direct virus detection, giving accurate but slow results (e.g., RT-qPCR), or enable antibody detection in 15-30 minutes, but have high false negative rates (e.g., serological tests). A test that enables antibody detection in 10-seconds with high accuracy will be revolutionary and has the potential of significantly helping healthcare infrastructure throughout the world.

Recently, Panat (PI) has developed a breakthrough concept where antigens (i.e., proteins on the virus surface) are immobilized on a 3D-printed electrode surface in an electrochemical cell. When rabbit-derived antibodies were introduced on the electrode surface, they assumed that the antigens were part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, binding with them selectively, changing the impedance of the electrical circuit in seconds, which can be detected via a compact impedance analyzer connected to a smartphone (Ali et al, Advanced Materials, 2006647, 2020). In this research, Panat will utilize this discovery and develop a 10-second COVID-19 antibody test that has high specificity and sensitivity via clinical validation using human samples. The development of the test with clinical validation will be done in collaboration with the industry partner, UPMC. The proposed research will foster a collaboration between academia (CMU) and PA industry (UPMC), improve public health and PA healthcare infrastructure, and train the next generation of engineers and scientists from the commonwealth. The PITA grant will enable the PI to obtain critically important clinical validation, which will be used to apply for larger grants with HHS, NIH’s R01 program, and NSF by the end of the project period.