Catalonia leads a European project to diagnose the COVID-19 disease in 30 minutes

Catalan Economy

25 Mar 2020

The Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) leads a European project that will develop a point-of-care platform for rapid diagnosis and monitoring of coronavirus.

Under the name CONVAT, the project will provide a new device based on optical biosensor nanotechnology that will allow the detection of coronavirus in about 30 minutes, directly from the patient's sample and without the need for testing in centralized clinical laboratories.

This new technology could also quickly identify whether it is a common coronavirus or flu infection. The project indeed aims to extend beyond the current pandemic and the human diagnosis.

The new biosensor device will also be used for the analysis of different types of coronavirus present in reservoir animals, such as bats, in order to observe and monitor possible evolutions of these viruses and prevent future outbreaks in humans.

Support from the European Commission

The European Commission has prompted a quick response to focus research efforts on the diagnosis and treatment of the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The CONVAT project is one of the 17 research projects awarded through this special call.

It is the only project led from Spain, in cooperation with Italy and France. It will be headed by Prof. Laura M. Lechuga, Research Professor at CSIC and leader of the Nanobiosensors and Bioanalytical Applications Group at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2).

The project has a duration of two years, however, since it is based on previous know-how, results are expected to be produced in less than a year.

Eight Spanish research centres have been selected to participate in six projects of this European call. In total, they will receive 2.4 million, half of which will come from the CONVAT project led by the ICN2.

European expertise

In addition to Prof. Lechuga's group, three other centres will take part in the CONVAT project. First of all, the group of Prof. Jordi Serra Cobo from the University of Barcelona (UB), having extensive experience in the study of coronavirus in animals and its epidemiology.

In France, Prof. Remi Charrel's laboratory at the University of Marseille is a leader in virology and molecular biology, pioneering the development and production of biological material for the validation of new diagnostic systems.

Finally, the project also involves the Italian National Institute of Infectious Diseases (INMI), where researchers from Dr Antonino Di Caro's laboratory were among the first to sequence the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and which is the reference institute for the analysis and diagnosis of COVID-19.

Source: Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

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