The purpose of this project is to develop a prototype portable reader that can detect minute traces of Sars Cov-2 RNA in less than one hour. Knowing whether the virus is present in the air or on the surfaces of a room is indeed crucial information for decontamination protocols.
As of today, teams take a sample and send it to a laboratory for analysis to test for the presence of the virus. This laboratory multiplies the genetic sequences found there so as to identify the virus RNA. This requires chemicals called reagents, which can be difficult to obtain, as well as equipment to change and fine-tune the temperature during the test. For these reasons, the test result cannot be communicated on site.
The project uses a completely different method, which allows the test to be carried out on site. The RNA sequence is multiplied using two techniques. One traditional and well-established technique is loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP). The other is a reliable technique, perfectly controlled by the laboratory: molecular programming. This new discipline is derived from the capacity of living organisms to organize themselves from a large number of biochemical reactions carried out in parallel. In both cases, detection does not imply reagents but a sensor that uses very little energy. Ultimately, the project also aims at detecting S proteins, i.e. the “spikes” with which the virus enters cells, in order to determine whether the detected traces have kept their infection capacity.