Thanks to the grant awarded in the National Science Center (NSC) competition ‘Fast path to funding for COVID-19 research’, an interdisciplinary team of scientists led by PhD, DSc Robert Bogdanowicz, university professor from Gdańsk University of Technology, will implement an innovative research project, creating an electronic analytical platform for very sensitive examination of the SARS virus responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic.
A team of scientists from Gdańsk University of Technology (GUT, FETI) in cooperation with the Institute of Biotechnology and Molecular Medicine (IBMM, Gdańsk), with the support of computer modeling specialists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech, USA) will create an impedance measuring platform (iCovid), which will investigate the mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 virus attacking human cells. Researchers will use special electrodes made of very small pieces of diamonds to connect the ACE2 receptor used by the virus to invade human cells. The properties of such a system, including its ability to transmit variable electrical signals, change when the receptor binds whole viruses or even their fragments. In this way, it will be possible to study very precisely how the virus uses different proteins to bind and attack cells. This seemingly simple task will require many innovative approaches and prototyping to achieve the required sensitivity and selectivity.
In addition to developing an electronic tool to study potential new drugs for COVID-19, scientists will also use the developed platform to check which methods effectively inactivate SARS virus in saliva and nasal swabs. This is especially important because the virus in samples currently sent for laboratory tests is collected and transported in a living and active form, which threatens the possibility of infecting the personnel in diagnostic laboratories.
The NSC competition was conducted in an express formula while maintaining the highest evaluation standards. Scientists had only two weeks to prepare the application. Despite this, the researchers submitted a total of 262 applications for a total amount of PLN 140 million. The application of the team from Gdańsk University of Technology took very high 7th place in the ranking list. Funding for a total amount of over PLN 12 million was granted to only 19 projects. Co-financing of the project of GUT scientists was PLN 536 400.