Braveheart is pleased to provide an update concerning the development of a COVID-19 test that Paraytec Limited is conducting with the University of Sheffield.
WP1 Construction of a viral mimic
In order to avoid using live Coronavirus in the lab during proof of concept, an artificial version of the virus is used, the surface of which mimics the Covid-19 virus, by displaying the precise protein (SPIKE) on it that the virus uses to gain access to human cells.
Production of the artificial virus mimic involves five distinct stages – i) isolation of genetically engineered DNA that enables cells to synthesize SPIKE. ii) introduction of that DNA into cells growing in culture. iii) collection of the cell medium containing newly made proteins. iv) isolation of the SPIKE protein from all other proteins by chromatographic purification. v) bonding of the SPIKE protein to sub micron-sized polystyrene beads. Stages i-iv of this workpackage have been completed and purified SPIKE protein has been obtained.
In the next phase, the final construction stages of the viral mimic will be reported upon.
WP2 Development of CAPTURE system
The CAPTURE module comprises a system in which a specialised surface is coated with a macromolecule that binds the virus very tightly. Here the virus-binding molecule undergoing analysis is COVID-19 DNA aptamer that has been supplied to Paraytec.
Single-stranded DNA molecules such as aptamers do not readily adhere to polymer test surfaces. In order to facilitate tight adherence, the protein avidin has been bonded to the test surfaces and a version of the aptamer has been built that is chemically linked to the small molecule biotin. It has been shown that the aptamer may be coated onto both polystyrene and polysaccharide ( D-galactose and 3,6-anhydro-L-galactopyranose repeating units) surfaces.
The next phase of development and construction of the Capture module will be reported next month, on schedule for completion of the proof-of-concept element of the project in three months, prior to validation.
Professor Carl Smythe commented: “We believe that this is the first time an aptamer for COVID-19 has been successfully integrated into a micro fluidics-compatible test surface to enable low level virus particle detection. Over the next month, we will evaluate which of the modified surfaces described above have performance characteristics required, and then report on the final construction stages of the Capture system. Subsequently, we aim to demonstrate the ability of the Capture system to selectively retain virus proteins as the first stage in development of our test device”
Trevor Brown, CEO of Braveheart, observed: “Professor Smythe’s innovative team, based in the Florey Building at the University of Sheffield, has already provided new insights into the application of high affinity macromolecules for the detection of pathogens such as COVID-19. This follows a long tradition of outstanding R&D in the biomedical sciences at Sheffield, pioneered by Baron Howard Florey, the first person to isolate penicillin.”
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