Purdue tech could help ID COVID-19

While U.S. health officials struggle to meet the demand for COVID-19 diagnostic tests, a paper device developed by biomedical engineers at Purdue in West Lafayette could offer a solution.  

Professor Jacqueline Linnes has created a portable diagnostic tool similar to a pregnancy test that can quickly detect a variety of infectious diseases. Though it has not been tested on COVID-19, the device was shown to accurately detect a different coronavirus strain in small quantities. 

“To detect COVID-19, we would just need an assay design specific to that sequence, which could come from a nasal or throat swap sample,” Linnes said. “A user could load the assay with liquid into the paper platform, fold the device and let it run.”

Within 40 minutes, they would see if the test is positive, indicating an infection.

Federal officials had promised a million COVID-19 test kits would be available nationwide last week, but the actual number distributed was significantly smaller. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control loosened its testing restrictions, authorizing tests for anyone who has a doctor’s approval. The change dramatically increases demand for testing.

Although the Purdue-developed paper diagnostic device would be relatively inexpensive to produce, West Lafayette researchers said it will cost millions of dollars to develop the process to manufacture it. The technology is available for licensing from the university.