Developing innovative, fast and low-cost tests to monitor antibodies to COVID-19, in serum or saliva, is proposed by the “TecniCov” project, which obtained a 450 thousand euro funding from the National Innovation Agency.
The project is led by Goreti Sales, from the University of Coimbra (UC), in partnership with teams from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto and the company INOVA+, coordinated, respectively, by Elvira Fortunato, Felismina Moreira and Raquel Sousa.
“At this time of the pandemic, it is important to monitor antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus more quickly and at a lower cost, but the effectiveness of this process depends on the stage of the disease that each individual is in and the clinical objective of that monitoring, which can be a simple screening or a rigorous quantification”, explains Goreti Sales, stressing that the “TecniCov” project therefore proposes “a set of new, independent and complementary techniques, suitable for different scenarios”.
Specifically, explains the professor of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC), these techniques “include paper test strips (urine strip type), lateral flow systems (pregnancy test type) and electrochemical sensors (type of diabetes strip), articulated with appropriate computer tools, which aim to facilitate interaction with the user and the organization of data collection”.
The great innovation of this project to detect the immune response to the COVID-19 virus, according to the scientist, “focuses on the use of synthetic materials of high affinity for antibodies produced in vivo, which will allow the production of rapid tests with high sensitivity and low cost, while ensuring future production capacity of these tests on a global scale”.
“These devices are expected to be produced at low cost and on a global scale, thus fulfilling the global needs of health authorities in terms of pandemic management”.
The tests developed within the scope of the project, which lasts eight months, will be validated by researchers Ana Miguel Matos and Teresa Rosete, from the UC clinical analysis laboratory dedicated to COVID-19.
The research groups involved in the project are BioMark from the Center for Biological Engineering (CEB) and CENIMAT from the Institute of Nanostructures, Nanomodeling, and Nanofabrication (i3N).