Rapid, portable, and scalable Covid-19 antibody testing

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Chemistry


Determining antibody levels in humans is crucial for monitoring immunity against Covid-19 and
tackling the national crisis. Antibody levels report about a previous infection and help decide
whether people can return to work or live with others without spreading the disease. To be
effective for national screening, antibody testing should deliver accurate results to individuals
ideally within minutes, and be portable as well as high-throughput. Existing techniques based on
immunosorbent assays do not deliver these benefits due to the need for multiple liquid handling
steps, signal amplification, insufficient accuracy, or read-out with bulky optical equipment.
This project will deliver fast, portable, high-throughput and accurate antibody sensing by
pioneering step-changing sensor nanopores from the lead PI at University College London
Chemistry (UCLC), and by integrating them into memory-stick-sized on-the-market kits from
industrial partner and biotech unicorn Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT). These MinION
analysis kits have ushered in a revolution in portable DNA sequencing and are currently used for
unravelling the Covid-19 sequence. The PI has a strong working relationship with the company and
has licensed sequencing pore technology which has been one key component to make the MinION
a success. In this project, the technology will be adapted with wider nanopores tailored for Covid-
19 antibodies. The new sensor pores can be plugged into the existing MinION kits without the
need for redesigning the device, thereby ensuring production to scale. The devices will be clinically
tested and benchmarked by Co-PI and intensive care and monitoring specialist Prof. Mervyn Singer
at UCL Medicine (UCLM). All project partners have previously successfully worked together in joint
grants, for publications, or via technology licensing contracts.


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Description The work on the research topic, DNA nanopores, have led to IP which has been licensed to the leader in portable sensing with nanopores, Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT). Around half of all Covid virus samples have been sequenced with the kits from ONT. The PI of the project and the company have engaged in a project to improve the pore properties to bring the technology to market.
Sector Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Economic