Recent weeks and months have seen the emergence of COVID-19 as a major threat to health on a global scale. One major challenge associated with combating this disease is the lack of a rapid diagnostic device. Although current tests are sensitive, they require specially equipped laboratories and can take several days to provide results. This project aims to identify and validate antibodies for use in real-time, point-of-care, COVID-19 biosensor devices. Such devices could allow doctors and other healthcare professionals to immediately diagnose infected individuals and get them the treatment they need while more effectively containing the spread of this pandemic.

SARS-CoV-2 is the viral cause of the COVID-19 illness. An antibody-based nanoplasmonic barcode biosensor could a provide real-time, point-of-care diagnostic device. This project will develop such a sensor. The first objective is the discovery of SARS-CoV-2 binding antibodies. To ensure a sufficient diversity of antibodies are identified, three parallel discovery pathways will be pursued: 1) the identification of antibodies that cross-react with SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV spike proteins, 2) the rational engineering of anti- SARS-CoV-1 antibodies to bind SARS-CoV-2, and 3) the in silico, de novo design of novel SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. About four antibody pairs will be selected from the antibodies discovered through the three complementary approaches. The pairs will be used for SARS-CoV-2 detection on the basis of their affinity measured by ELISA and surface plasmon resonance and of the selectivity of their binding to unique epitopes, as monitored by competition ELISA. Finally, the antibody pairs will be used in the design and evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 nanoplasmonic biosensors. Nanoparticle signals will only be detected by the biosensors in the presence of virus. The proposed research will enable the more rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 compared to current diagnostic tests, resulting in a better understanding of its spread and more effective containment.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Auburn University
United States
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