Cultivated at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Sao Paulo, Brazil, BIOinFOOD is developing a rapid COVID-19 diagnosis with the support of the Sao Paulo Research Foundation-FAPESP SME Program Innovative Research (PIPE). It’s a startup. A patent application-based test submitted by a student at UNICAMP’s Genomics and Bioenergy Laboratory.
The test is based on a biosensor consisting of recombinant brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), which changes color when the human ACE2 receptor expressed by the yeast membrane binds to spike glycoproteins present on the outer surface of the virus. To do.
“Yeasts are usually beige. When this interaction occurs, the presence of the virus is indicated by a fluorescent green color that is easily detected by the equipment commonly found in clinical analysis laboratories,” said one of BIOinFOOD’s partners. Gleidson Silva Teixeira said.
Teixeira studied under Professor Gonçalo Amarante Guimarães Pereira, who heads one of the UNICAMP Institutes of Biology laboratories where ideas emerged. Researchers predict that the new test will be faster and cheaper than RT-PCR because of the low cost of yeast, the main input.
Another important difference is probably the use of saliva. Being non-invasive is an advantage of diagnostic testing. Many people experience severe discomfort when collecting material with a nasal swab.
The sensitivity of the test is expected to be high. This means that you will be able to detect the virus just days after infection. “Ultimately, we plan to make the yeast emit a red light, which makes it easier to identify,” says Teixeira. “In this case, anyone at home will be able to use the test completely.”
Once the working hypothesis developed at UNICAMP’s laboratory is fully tested, startup scientists hope that the test will be on the market and freely available for purchase in the first half of 2021.
“This project is also supported by FINEP [the Brazilian government’s innovation agency] We cannot miss the opportunity to help fight the pandemic, so we need to develop it quickly, “says Teixeira.
The idea of ??developing a product designed to fight COVID-19 was a phone call made by FAPESP when the pandemic arrived in Brazil (March 2020), giving researchers in the state of São Paulo the idea of ??creating in this direction. Called for submission of a proposed solution. “The secret in this case is the genetic modification of yeast,” says Teisheira. “We are confident that the hypothesis will work and that the biosensors we are building will give a completely reliable signal.”
The raw materials for the product should be simple and the distribution of diagnostic tests should be logistically easy.
Bread and beer
According to one of the owners, the innovations associated with the COVID-19 diagnostic test came from techniques previously learned by BIO in FOOD. The startup offers a biotechnology platform based on S. cerevisiae, a versatile microorganism widely used in the industry as a biofactory. Organic acids, amino acids, enzymes, and therapeutic proteins are part of the platform’s output.
“In certain cases of the technology used to develop the COVID-19 test, we hope that the platform will adapt to other types of diseases in the future,” says Teixeira.
The company also develops custom yeasts for use in bakeries and breweries to suit consumer tastes. “There are several yeast-based solutions. Yeast is a well-known microbe. It can also be used in animal feed,” says Teixeira.
Brazilian start-ups aim to develop completely unique COVID-19 diagnostic tests
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