Molecular Nanotechnology Adapted to Provide Easier, Faster COVID-19 Testing

Molecular Nanotechnology Adapted to Provide Easier, Faster COVID-19 Testing
Molecular Nanotechnology Adapted to Provide Easier, Faster COVID-19 Testing

Authored by Kristina Etter

April 30, 2020

The New York Police Department calls it an “invisible bullet.” President Trump has referred to the disease as the “invisible enemy,” and still other publications have deemed COVID-19 a “silent assassin.” Regardless of the villainous name that we give it, the coronavirus cannot be seen by the naked eye, is highly contagious, and can live on certain surfaces for days, undetected.

Many experts agree, one of the most significant factors leading to the outbreak of the coronavirus has been an overall lack of testing and diagnostics. Without proper testing and containment efforts, this deadly disease will continue to spread into uninfected areas until a vaccine or treatment has been developed, which could take months or even years. Until then, in order to restart the economy and send people back to work, effective prevention strategies must start with widespread testing and decontamination processes.

Contact tracing and antibody tests reveal the path of the disease after infection. While these tests can show where the virus has been, a molecular technology company out of Vancouver, Canada, wants to reveal where the virus is. A recent patent application by Sixth Wave Innovations shows how molecular nanotechnology could be adapted to provide easier, faster testing capability, as well as visibility for surface contamination of the novel coronavirus and future viral threats.

In a press release, company president and CEO, Dr. Jonathan Gluckman, stated, “Now more than ever, the reality of an interconnected world means there is a desperate need to quickly identify and stem the tide of emerging pandemic outbreaks.” He continued, 

“Rapid detection, the ability to instantly assess the threat of viral contact, and tools of early intervention are crucial to the containment of new viruses. We hope this technology will revolutionize how we get ahead of pandemics like COVID-19 and other future novel viruses, preventing their spread and mitigating the social and economic losses.”

Colorimetric Indicators Provide Visual Response

Unlike Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) methods and Immunoassay Technology (IAT), which can be complicated, time-consuming, and take many months to address a new virus, Sixth Wave’s Accelerated Detection MIPs (AMIPs) uses molecularly imprinted polymers to generate a colorimetric response indicating the presence of COVID-19, or future novel viral outbreaks. The flexibility and simplicity of this technology could revolutionize the prevention of viral spread.

While the application is new, the technology isn’t. Sixth Wave has already successfully deployed similar technology in explosives detection wipes and bacterial pathogen detection swabs. Like how a field drug test works, a catalyst embedded into a wipe, swab, or test strip, would display a color indicator when the virus is present. Gluckman stated in an interview, “The transition to virus detection is a logical extension for us. Developing this technology to take advantage of the advances we’ve made in MIPs technology.”

Advantages of AMIPs Nanotechnology Detection

According to Sixth Wave, their patent-pending solution is targeted to provide several advantages for detecting, containing, and, ultimately, ending viral pandemics, such as SARS-COV-2. Like PCR and IAT diagnostic tests, the AMIPs system directly detects viral particles, as well as antibodies or viral genetic markers. Impressively, multiple AMIPs can be designed to identify a range of components such as viral DNA, RNA, proteins, small molecules, and even antibodies, making it one of the most versatile testing solutions to date.

Because the technology will be able to be deployed in many formats, including a cartridge design, Sixth Wave believes the development of AMIPs detection for new viral threats could potentially take less than 30 days from the onset, as well as, allow screening for multiple classes of viruses. So, although coronavirus may have caught many countries off-guard today, the spread of future outbreaks could be contained much earlier with further development of Sixth Wave’s solution.

Using a colorimetric response, which include implementations that work like a common over-the-counter pregnancy tests, AMIPs, once completed, will provide accurate, reliable results from a process that requires little to no training. In addition to being adaptable and fast, first responders, caregivers, and even patients may be able to test any bodily fluid containing the virus, potentially making it much easier to administer as compared to the deep nasal swab required by existing testing platforms.

Finally, the platform will be infinitely scalable and adaptable. The AMIPs technology allows Sixth Wave to configure the test to screen for multiple infections at once. By detecting classes of viruses, researchers could essentially deploy new diagnostics without cultivating antigens or collecting antibodies in the case of novel viruses, like coronavirus. Thus, helping create a safer research environment as well.

“The transition to virus detection is a logical extension for us. Developing this technology to take advantage of the advances we’ve made in MIPs technology.”

AMIPs Library Provides Rapid Response

Based on the current pandemic, Sixth Wave engineers recognized there is little time to develop testing solutions after an outbreak has occurred. Anticipating future viral strains as a potential threat, the company is also developing a library or database of MIPs to reduce the time it takes to develop new diagnostics. The database will contain molecularly imprinted polymers based on the shape, size, and morphology of known viruses.

The company believes maintaining this inventory makes its technology proactive and ready at a moment’s notice to screen for potential threats in the future.

Returning to Normalcy Requires Widespread Testing

Understanding that R0 is an indicator for how long an outbreak will last, epidemiologists know that any R0 greater than 1 means the epidemic will continue. With recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control ranking the coronavirus R0 as high as 5.7, there’s no question the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.

Although many people who become infected with coronavirus can fight off the disease without help, the contagion factor makes this disease deadly for many segments of the population. As a novel virus, there are few treatment options, no cure, and no vaccine or herd immunities to help control the spread. Therefore, the only logical way to combat the disease is by prevention.

Preventing a highly contagious killer from spreading means locating it, isolating it, and then eradicating it. By using Sixth Wave’s AMIPs technology, combined with decontamination efforts, the virus could be found on public surfaces and adequately disinfected, thereby ensuring healthy workers and consumers a safer environment upon their return to normalcy.

As governments and researchers are fast-tracking treatment options and vaccines, contact tracing, surface contamination detection, and diagnostics need to be prioritized as well. Solutions like this one offered by Sixth Wave may hold the keys to unlocking the lockdowns.

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  1. Rima Massee

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    • Kristina Etter

      Thanks for following along Rima… and thanks for the positive feedback!

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