ANPC develops new COVID-19-detecting technology
Researchers at Murdoch University’s Australian National Phenome Centre (ANPC) have filed a patent for advanced magnetic resonance technology that can detect the pathological signature of COVID-19 without relying on direct detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Instead the technology examines the biological fingerprint that the disease has on the patient.
The patent has been jointly filed with Bruker Biospin GmbH, a New York Stock Exchange listed company that develops advanced analytical technologies.
ANPC Director Professor Jeremy Nicholson said this paved the way to the development of new regulatory approved tests that can be rolled out in multiple countries.
“The new testing paradigm also allows long-term effects of the disease (Long COVID) to be monitored in a way that will help enable personalised health care for long-term COVID-19 sufferers,” Professor Nicholson said.
Professor Nicholson explained that the method identifies new molecular biomarkers linked to abnormal fat biochemistry and the way in which those fats bind to circulating proteins. The novel signatures proved to be highly effective (95% or higher) at distinguishing SARS-CoV-2-positive patients from patients with mild to moderate non-COVID-19 respiratory disease.
“The importance of this patent is that it paves the way to developing a regulatory approved test that would be used to help distinguish COVID-19 from other respiratory diseases based on changes in metabolism, not the presence of the virus itself,” Professor Nicholson said.
“An important possible use of this would be to augment existing PCR methods that are a mainstay of border biosecurity protection measures.”
Professor Nicholson said the methods will be developed further, in collaboration with international partners and regulators, in order to create an internationally recognised testing procedure that can be uniformly applied across the world.
“This is an example of an international science collaboration that is driven out of the discoveries of a WA laboratory (the ANPC), effectively with WA leading the COVID-19 diagnostic discovery paradigm,” Professor Nicholson said.
“Although WA has been spared the most serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic so far, there are still many challenges ahead until the population is protected adequately by vaccines or other therapies and biosecurity vigilance, which has worked well in WA so far and must be upheld in the presence of new more aggressive virus variants.”
Professor Nicholson said new physical and chemical methods for detection such as the one proposed will assist in improving screening procedures in the future but are subject to further regulatory refinement and approval which is now ongoing at the ANPC and partner laboratories.
“The test currently works on a small blood plasma sample that requires no pre-treatment and takes about 3-4 minutes per test,” Professor Nicholson said.
“We are further optimising the test procedure for speed and sample size and we expect performance improvements during regulatory development — even though this is still a work in progress, we regard it as a significant translational development.”
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