Rapid, accurate, ultrasensitive, and cost-effective testing for infectious SARS-CoV-2 particles will play a critical role in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, reliable diagnostic and detection tools that can be modified for both self-testing, and for high-throughput, population-based testing, will enable effective isolation practices to take place, at the level of both the individual and the community. 
Currently, the two main approaches for large-scale SARS-CoV-2 detection are: (i) Serological assays, which detect antibodies generated by infected persons by means of a blood draw or pin-prick; and (ii) Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) assays, which detect SARS-CoV-2 specific RNA sequences that are present in a nasal swab or blood samples. While these approaches are useful, they have significant limitations as tools for effectively managing active COVID-19 infections. Serological tests are useful for identifying those who have already been infected and developed immunity against COVID-19. PCR based detection of viral RNA is only 50-70% accurate, and moreover, in many types of viral infections, viral RNA can still be detected in the body many weeks after clearance of the infectious virus. 
Technology Overview
Professor Wanunu has designed a diagnostic system that can detect the presence of intact SARS-CoV-2 virus capsids, serving as a strong indication of the active, infectious virus. The key innovation of this technology involves the exploitation of the spike protein structures on the virus’ outer shell, and their propensity to bind to ACE2 proteins. The technology employs a testing reagent comprised of synthetic ACE2 proteins, each attached to a single strand of DNA. The single DNA strands are designed to connect to each other only when they are close together. When two synthetic ACE2 proteins bind to neighboring viral proteins, their attached DNA strands will ligate together. The detection of a DNA sequence encompassing both strands of DNA indicates the presence of an intact, infectious virus.
- Detects intact virus particles in a highly accurate manner 
- Ultra-sensitive (with potential to detect even one virus per sample) 
- Draws from standard molecular biology tools and reagents 
- Can be formulated into detection kits that support rapid high-throughput testing, or rapid self-administered tests 
- Point of care diagnostic 
- Use by facilities equipped with PCR expertise, e.g. an airport) 
- Research Collaboration
- License
- Partnering
Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Mark Saulich
Associate Director of Commercialization
Northeastern University
Meni Wanunu