Piyush Jain, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and a member of the UF Health Cancer Center, and Long Nguyen, a Ph.D. student, have developed a CRISPR-based, paper-based, rapid detection technology that can identify SARS-CoV-2 cDNA in as little as 5-10 minutes or SARS-CoV-2 RNA in as low as 30-60 minutes without the need of expensive equipment. The technology combines a reverse transcription, an isothermal DNA amplification system with an engineered CRISPR/Cas-system, and a sensitive paper-based lateral flow assay.
They want to utilize this technology to create an inexpensive at-home Coronavirus test kit, similar to pregnancy test strips.
While similar paper-based detection technologies are under development, their approach utilizes engineered CRISPR RNAs and optimized protocol that drastically improves the limit of detection down only a few copies of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and produces up to 23 times higher signal intensity than previously reported.
“What is exciting with our research is that our engineered technology is much more sensitive than the related technologies,” Jain says.
Nguyen had been working on engineering a sensitive CRISPR-based detection platform for HIV, HCV, and prostate cancer. As soon as the novel coronavirus began to emerge, he immediately saw the application and got to work on the detection platform.
Dr. Jain’s Nano-Biomolecular Precision Lab is focused on developing a multi-scale biomolecular engineering platform using nucleic acids chemistry, protein engineering, and nanoengineering. They employ an array of bioanalytical techniques with immediate applications for the detection and treatment of genetic disorders, infectious diseases, and cancer.
“Our immediate goal is to clinically validate the technology in collaboration with other labs on campus and then apply for the Emergency Use Authorization with FDA,” Jain said.