Science and Technology

SARSChip: a portable diagnostic system for COVID-19

SARSChip, a project “made in Técnico” led by Verónica Romão, INESC-MN researcher, was one of the winning projects of “RESEARCH 4 COVID-19” – 2nd edition.

Two types of testing are key to tackle the Coronavirus properly: molecular tests, which tracks the presence of viral genetic material in a patient sample; and serological tests, which require a blood sample and aim at detecting antibodies in patients and can show whether a person has immunity. SARSChip is an innovative project that lies between these two tests. The portable and universal diagnostic system is being developed in INESC-MN laboratories allowing molecular diagnosis of the new coronavirus and serological analysis of patients. The project “SARSChip- On-chip testing of SARS-CoV” led by Verónica Romão, was one of the winners of “RESEARCH 4 COVID-19” – 2nd edition, promoted by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT).

The team is composed of researchers from INESC-ID, STAB VIDA, INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, Department of Genetics and Biotechnology – UTAD, CHTMAD – Clinical Pathology Services of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro Hospital and CHUCB – Clinical Pathology Services of Cova da Beira Hospital.

“Our main goal is to develop molecular and serological tests, easy to use and read, for the accurate diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infections at any stage of the infection”, says Verónica Romão.

The technology that will be used in the project is the result of a collaboration of almost two decades between INESC MN and INESC-ID. The research team was already developing a system for detecting viral infections with a particular focus on Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya, which is being “easily converted to detect SARS-CoV-2”, says the project leader. The tests will be single-use disposable devices, based on a microfabricated biochip, magnetic particles and microfluidic structures. A portable electronic platform will accurately read these tests.

The SARSChip project will last for 6 months. According to the team, at the end of this period, it will be possible to carry out these tests in hospitals.