A small, inexpensive virus-detection technology invented by Colorado State University researchers will soon form the basis of a new product that could compete with standard diagnostic testing for COVID-19.
The new diagnostic device, which aims to be fast, portable and more accurate than currently available COVID-19 tests, is one of several technologies spawned from a collaboration among CSU researchers Brian Geiss, Chuck Henry and David Dandy. Combining their wide-ranging expertise in virology, chemistry and chemical engineering, the team has licensed their viral RNA-testing platform to Quara Devices, a startup company specializing in diagnostic biosensors.
The licensing deal, mediated by CSU Ventures, was inked earlier this summer and allows the company to move the invention into product engineering and design phases, while the CSU scientists continue testing the devices for efficacy and accuracy. The Chief Science Officer of Quara is Ken Reardon, a professor in the CSU Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.
Geiss, Henry and Dandy have worked several years together developing low-cost biological diagnostic platforms for applications including viruses, bacteria and antibodies. For the device they’ve licensed to Quara, their original goal was detecting organisms with antimicrobial resistance. As COVID-19 was becoming a pandemic, they found they could generalize their basic platform, which they began developing over a year ago, into a sensitive test for RNA viruses, including coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2.
Reardon, who joined Quara last year after consulting on a bacterial-detection technology for the company, approached his CSU colleagues about possibly extending their viral detection strategy into a product that Quara could commercialize. During these negotiations, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, which further spurred the group toward a deal that would allow them to enter the COVID-19 diagnostics market. Their technology is envisioned as a point-of-need genetic analyzer for viruses and bacteria, including but not limited to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“This technology predated the pandemic, but because of its versatility as a platform, and the significant need for high accuracy in detecting COVD-19 in patients, we see an urgency to get it out now,” Reardon said. “We are trying to get this into the market within the year, which is a pretty aggressive acceleration.”