The COVID-19 pandemic presents a serious public health crisis to the United States and to the world at large. One critical need is for improved and simplified methods to detect the SARS-COV-2 virus. Many of the available tests lack specificity, take several hours to complete, and require centralized high-complexity laboratory equipment. Researchers supported by this award will develop and test a novel system for electrochemical detection of viral RNA sequences without the need for complex laboratory procedures. The work will be led by investigators at Tuskegee University, working in collaboration with Auburn University researchers. In addition to the potential societal benefit accrued from improved SARS-COV-2 testing, the undergraduate and graduate student training conducted as part of the project will help to advance and broaden the participation of students from HBCUs.

Electrochemical nanocomposite biosensors are powerful tools for the detection of biomarkers and environmental hazards. DNA or RNA fragments found in clinical samples typically fall below the detection limits of most methods of unamplified DNA/RNA detection. The research supported by this award will test the utility of simple nanocomposite sensor detecting DNA/RNA directly from unamplified samples. This technology offers an unprecedented simultaneous and multiplexed detection of different pathogen sequences in a high-throughput format with electrical readout. The simplified approach has the potential to dramatically reduce sample turnaround time due to their label free character and high sensitivity with a disposable ?sensor strip.? Results from these studies will be disseminated through publication in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at scientific meetings, and potentially through commercialization of the resulting technology. This RAPID award to Tuskegee University is made by the Division of Biological Infrastructure and is also supported by the NSF HBCU Excellence in Research Program.

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.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Steven Ellis
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Tuskegee University
Tuskegee Institute
United States
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