University Of Wyoming Team To Develop Handheld, 15 Minute COVID-19 Test

Sep 17, 2020

Standard COVID-19 tests are sent to facilities like the Division of Health and Environment Combined Laboratories Facility in Cheyenne. A new handheld testing method may make this unnecessary.
Credit Cayla Nimmo, Star-Tribune

The University of Wyoming is part of an international effort to create a rapid handheld test for COVID-19.

The team, from UW and the National University of Ireland Galway, will engineer antibodies that are more sensitive than those used in current tests. By using antibodies that were engineered in their lab, the scientists will avoid supply chain issues.

The engineered antibodies will be mixed with a test sample to detect the coronavirus and trigger a signal in a handheld device, called a spectrometer, within 15 minutes.

UW Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Patrick Johnson said a patient will receive results before they leave the testing center.

"The goal is to make this a widespread diagnostic test that can be utilized in remote settings or at airports or in a location where you need an immediate answer," he said.

Johnson said the test should be easy to administer and use.

"One of the goals of the test is that you wouldn't have to have highly trained personnel," he said. "So anybody taking a sample could mix the components, put it in the spectrometer and you get an auto readout of a positive or negative test."

Johnson said the handheld device is the most expensive component, but each test will cost less than a dollar.

This method would allow for both detection of the virus itself and antibodies as a result of the virus, although Johnson said that would likely require two separate samples. The team received a grant from the Health Research Board of Ireland that provides project funding for one year.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu