National Institutes of Health Awards BU a $4.8M Grant to Develop Low-Cost, Easy-to-Use Virus Detection Platform

Posted by erik devaney

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Traditional technology for detecting viruses has several inadequacies; some of which include the extensive training required for health care workers to utilize the technology, the expensive refrigeration needed for transporting samples and the time-consuming sample preparation and analysis processes.

A fast, simple, low-cost virus detection platform would benefit all parties involved. Health care workers could administer tests more easily, patients could receive their results more rapidly and medical institutions could cut down on their costs. The only losers in such a scenario? The viruses.

Researchers from Boston University are currently working to make this fast, simple, low-cost virus detection platform a reality; and they just received a major boost: $4.8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The chip-sized platform that the BU researchers are developing will be able to detect some of the most lethal viruses around. These include Marburg and Ebola, which are known to cause hemorrhagic fever. When fully developed, BU’s virus detection platform promises to provide rapid, point-of-care results in both clinical and field settings, which will have a dramatic affect on our ability to confine viral pandemics.

Professor Ünlü

Leading the BU research team are principal investigator and BU School of Medicine Assistant Professor, John Connor; BU College of Engineering Professor, Selim Ünlü and Assistant Professor, Hatice Altug. Working in partnership with Connor, Ünlü and Altug are BU Engineering Associate Professor, Catherine Klapperich; Research Assistant Professor, Mario Cabodi; and University of Texas Medical Branch Professor, Thomas Geisbert.

“We brought together this interdisciplinary team in order to develop a breakthrough detector system that will allow a simple test for the presence of viruses,” Connor recently stated. “…The detectors that we are developing will be small and portable, making them easy to take to the site of an outbreak.”

In addition to being small and portable, Connor noted that the virus detection platforms will be able to “look for multiple viruses at the same time,” which will dramatically reduce testing times. As Ünlü commented, “Under the new NIH grant, our goal is to produce a highly sensitive, user-friendly, commercially-viable virus detection system that can be deployed at the point of care and detect viruses in about 30 minutes.” To put this in perspective, some current virus detection technologies can take days to produce results.

The BU research team plans to develop a commercially viable prototype of the virus detection platform within five years. The finished product will consist of a small chip with microfluidics (or extremely tiny volumes of liquid) inside. These microfluidics will draw samples over sensing components and a “reading” component will then provide diagnostic information.


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Posted by erik devaney on Oct 6 2011. Filed under Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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