In a world now characterised by face masks, self-isolation and social distancing, the need for disease prevention and detection has never been more paramount. To date, the pandemic has caused more than 178 million reported cases and more than 3 million deaths worldwide (1). With new outbreaks and variant viral strains continuing to threaten society, the value of rapid-antigen testing is exigent in promoting public health and restoring social normality.
With continued community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Australia and globally, there has been a sustained focus from governments and health professionals to mitigate and control the spread. However, testing in the public health setting comes with various challenges. Conventional infectious disease diagnostics such as microscopy and immunoassays are not only expensive and time-consuming, they require experienced personnel, centralised laboratories, and specialist equipment. In addition to these operational inefficiencies, in-vitro diagnostics have several shortcomings regarding their insensitivity and inaccuracy. What is more, whilst non-pharmaceutical measures such as travel restrictions, non-essential business closures and national stay-at-home orders have shown to help control local outbreaks, they have manifested social and economic burden for a large majority of people, most of whom are non-infectious.
The Current Gold Standard in COVID-19 Testing
Studies have shown that mass testing campaigns are the most efficient way to not only identify but trace infectious individuals, thereby complementing global vaccine interventions without undue burden to those who are non-infectious (2). As it currently stands, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are the ‘gold standard’ for the accurate diagnosis of COVID-19. However, the tests are not suitable for mass intervention. In addition to causing discomfort, nasopharyngeal swaps and PCRs are expensive, laboratory dependent and have a lengthy turn-around time.
“According to a recent observational study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, rapid antigen tests such as labelled biosensing devices have an estimated sensitivity of 83-91% in detecting infectious disease (2)”.
Redefining the Gold Standard
Biosensing devices are redefining the ‘gold standard’ by enabling higher sensitivity and selectivity, portability, real-time detection, low-cost production, and the facilitation of rapid response diagnostic information delivered at the point-of-care (POC). Not only are rapid antigen tests clinically desirable, they’re also epidemiologically beneficial as they improve community-wide sero-surveillance by increasing infectious disease sampling from a globally diverse population pool.
A Closer Look at Biosensing Technology
Biosensor technology has the potential to revolutionise the diagnostic industry and in doing so can significantly help in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Biosensors are a hybrid of chemical and physical sensing techniques that convert biominic, biological or biologically derived material into measurable signals to be detected by the biosensor.
Labeled assays are the most robust and common biosensing method and are critical for the early detection and continued monitoring of the COVID-19 virus. These assays are dependent on the interaction of an antigen-antibody complex, present in a solution, be it blood, saliva, or urine. The signal generated by these tests is proportional to the amount of analyte, or antibody in the captured sample, allowing for quantitative or semi-quantitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the medium.
How The iQ Group Global is Pioneering Biosensor Technology
The iQ Group Global is utilising labeled biosensor technology to put the power of accurate, timely diagnosis in the hands of patients and their primary health practitioners. By partnering with The University of Newcastle, The iQ Group Global is developing an organic biosensor, capable of testing for more than 130 oral-fluid biomarkers in one human saliva sample, from glucose for diabetes management, to immunological conditions.
The iQ Group Global has also partnered with the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University to develop and commercialise a novel antibody test to detect SARS-CoV-2 in human saliva. By integrating their proprietary Organic Thin Film Transistor (OTFT) technology with eRapid, a specialised gel-like coating developed by the Wyss Institute, the biosensor will have the capability to test for IgG and/or IgM antibodies in human saliva. This will indicate a patient’s current or previous exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as potential COVID-19 infection. If clinical trials are successful, the biosensor platform will pioneer rapid antigen testing with the potential to revolutionise the detection and monitoring of infectious diseases.
About The iQ Group Global
The iQ Group Global is a bioscience investment consortium that finds, funds, and develops bioscience discoveries to create life-changing medical innovations. The iQ Group Global’s flagship innovations include the Biosensor Platform and TEX Core, a first-in-class oncology drug platform with the ability to develop a pipeline of novel oncology compounds. Visit our website: theiqgroupglobal.com
About The Saliva Glucose Biosensor
The Saliva Glucose Biosensor is the first non-invasive, saliva-based glucose test for diabetes management that measure glucose in saliva, not blood.
About the SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Biosensor
The iQ Group Global collaborates with Harvard University’s Wyss Institute to Explore the Feasibility of a Real-time, Printable COVID-19 Diagnostic Test. Click here to read more.
(1) Covid19.who.int. 2021. WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard. [online] Available at: <https://covid19.who.int/>.
(2) Peeling, R., Olliaro, P., Boeras, D. and Fongwen, N., 2021. Scaling up COVID-19 rapid antigen tests: promises and challenges. The Lancet Infectious Diseases,.