PI: Jim Schneider

University: Carnegie Mellon University

This project aims to develop a novel assay of viral infection from ocular swabs. This biological fluid is noninvasive to sample cleaner than nasopharyngeal swabs or saliva (thus requiring less pre-purification) and expected to present biomarkers early in the progress of certain types of coronavirus infections. The assay will rely on detection of miRNA, a class of short noncoding miRNAs produced by all mammalian cells during their normal biological activity. The assays will be performed using micelle-tagging electrophoresis (MTE), a technology developed in the Schneider lab that rapidly sorts miRNA bound to specific probes. The method is easily carried out using commercial equipment and appropriate for point-of-care deployment. CMU has partnered with Visionaire Products, a PA startup company with expertise in biological assays based on ocular fluids. The team has also secured a collaboration with Dr. Anthony St. Leger (UPMC Ophthalmology), who has agreed to provide discarded, anonymized ocular fluid samples from patients with and without active infections of herpes simplex virus (HSV). These will be used to validate the assay methodology in preparation for follow-on funding from SBIR/STTR mechanisms at the NSF and NIH, among others.