April 29, 2021

Precise COVID diagnostic designed at School of Medicine ‘could be a game changer’

COVID swab test

Novel technology formed in a Wayne State University School of Medicine lab for ultra-precision SARS-CoV-2 detection and COVID-19 diagnostics, selected as a finalist in a worldwide technology competition, could be deployed clinically in as little as six months.

The chemistry design, coupled with logical and algorithmic analyses, can detect a single absolute SARS-CoV-2 target RNA with an estimated false positive rate of nearly 0.0%. 

“It was a great honor and satisfaction to be a recognized finalist for developing a technology that we believe could be game changer in our fight against COVID-19,” said Assistant Professor of Pathology Rodrigo Fernandez-Valdivia, Ph.D. 

The team includes, from top left, Rodrigo Fernandez-Valdivia, Ph.D., Hossein Salimnia, Ph.D., and Wael Sakr, M.D.;  and from bottom left, Amnah Sharif and Ann Shaji.

The project is one of 27 finalists from public and private institutions worldwide.

“We foresee that our technology will lead to developing COVID-19 diagnostics systems and that it will also be adapted and adopted for other types of nucleic acids probing applications,” he added.

Dr. Fernandez-Valdivia presented “High-precision SARS-CoV-2 Molecular Detection and COVID-19 Diagnostics” on Feb. 17 in a two-minute virtual presentation at the TechConnect Ventures’ COVID Sprints, a virtual summit highlighting emerging technology solutions addressing the global pandemic and connecting solution providers to public and private funding.

A year in the making, the achievement is another example of Wayne State scientists pivoting research focus to fight the pandemic. Initial conception and design began in February 2020, shortly after COVID-19 cases presented in the United States, and is a new development for his lab, conceived to address the pandemic.

“Being selected finalist is an important recognition of our work and the university, and it also gave us an exceptional opportunity to share our work with important government and private agencies addressing the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis. We also take this recognition with great responsibility to diligently advance our innovation to large-scale patient testing and the clinical ambit,” Dr. Fernandez-Valdivia said.

They are now working toward completion of clinical validation, supported by a technology innovation grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., as well as the WSU School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. They are exploring possibilities for further support from public and private sectors.

“We are humbly proud that even in the quite adverse of scenarios, we are Wayne Warriors effectively fighting this pandemic and putting Detroit and Michigan in the spotlight,” Dr. Fernandez-Valdivia said.

The completion of the clinical validation is being conducted with support from Department of Pathology Professor and Chair Wael Sakr, M.D., and Professor of Pathology Hossein Salimnia, Ph.D., who directs the department’s Division of Microbiology Diagnostics Division.

“This is an exemplary team effort between the basic and clinical divisions of our department, and it has also provided an excellent teaching and learning opportunity about biomedical innovations development of two exceptional Wayne State undergraduate students (from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry) Amnah Sharif and Ann Shaji,” Dr. Fernandez-Valdivia said.

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