Researchers at Biolinker, a biotech startup primarily based in São Paulo, Brazil, are creating a low-cost high-performance COVID-19 diagnostic take a look at utilizing solely domestically sourced inputs.
Biolinker is incubated on the University of São Paulo’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Technology (CIETEC), collectively run by the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Nuclear and Energy Research Institute (IPEN).
The challenge was one of many first to be chosen in a name for purposes issued by FAPESP’s Innovative Research in Small Business Program (PIPE) in partnership with FINEP, the Brazilian authorities’s innovation company, to fast-track funding for merchandise, companies or processes developed by tech startups and small companies within the state of São Paulo to fight COVID-19.
“Within a few months, we plan to have completed the development of a standardized kit for the detection of IgG circulating antibodies in blood serum produced in a later phase of the disease. The method used is ELISA [enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay],” mentioned Mona das Neves Oliveira, principal investigator for the challenge and founding father of the agency.
The challenge will use a cell-free protein synthesis know-how developed by the agency over the past two years to speed up and optimize protein manufacturing processes on the idea of an in vitro transcription and translation system. Researchers have used the system to develop a protein that’s being examined.
“The tests are going very well,” Oliveira mentioned. “We’ve produced the protein and are now purifying it to avoid false positives and false negatives.”
The group additionally produces proteins by conventional strategies. “We’ll compare the results to see which production system obtains the best antigenicity,” Oliveira mentioned.Antibody detection
The detection of IgG in affected person blood samples might be carried out utilizing antigens from the nucleocapsid protein, the antigenic fraction of the spike protein utilized by SARS-CoV-2 to invade human cells by binding to the ACE-2 receptor within the cell membrane.
Through a challenge supported by FAPESP, the researchers had been in a position to develop and validate an aptamer—a peptide that binds to a goal molecule—with robust affinity and specificity for the fixed fraction of IgG antibodies.
“We plan to use this aptamer conjugated with biotin [which acts as a coenzyme in purine and carbohydrate metabolism] for detection,” Oliveira mentioned.
The take a look at package might be low-cost as a result of the aptamer and antigens are low-cost to provide by the cell-free methodology. In addition, the agency already has its personal plasmids (DNA molecules that may self-replicate) for protein expression and well-established manufacturing protocols.
“It will be a very affordable, quick test that can be used anywhere for epidemiological screening purposes,” Oliveira mentioned. “Negotiations are in progress with companies interested in mass-producing the test kit once it’s been calibrated and approved for general use.”
Ester Sabino, a professor and researcher on the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Tropical Medicine (IMT-USP), is partnering with the challenge. Sabino led the sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 in Brazil.